The below photo is one of my journal two months ago. I believe I was feeling frustrated after yet another cold shower (due to a broken gas line that stayed broken for quite awhile) and felt the need to vent.  Looking at this entry inspired me to write about what I will miss when I leave Buenos Aires this Saturday night. While I still stick with the statement that I will miss “everything,” I’ll try to be a bit more specific here.

1. My host family.

Not only will I miss the perks, like a home cooked dinner every night or a maid to clean my room once a week, but I’ll miss the extended family I’ve gained. Carmen always made me feel so welcome and included on any family activities.  As a result, I’ve had the good fortune to spend time with her brother and his family as well as both of her sons. Living with a host family was the thing I was most nervous about but it turned out to be a very positive experience and I feel extremely lucky to have been placed in this house.

My roommate, Stephanie, my host brother, Nico and I.

My host mom, Carmen, and I at the Teatro Colon.

2. My new friends.

I’ve met some incredible people here from all walks of life and it will be hard to say goodbye to them.  When I moved from Ohio to South Carolina for college, I met many people from various backgrounds and with viewpoints different than my own.  That was at times challenging but also very rewarding.  Coming to Buenos Aires, I had a similar experience but with even newer backgrounds and viewpoints. Knowing and loving friends with different ways of seeing the world is always a positive experience and I will miss the strange cast of characters that have become my friends here.

With my friends Kehala and Phoebe in Mendoza.

The ASA (my program) gang.

3. The ice cream.

Really, it’s indescribable. A creamy, gelato-esqe texture, but rich like ice cream. Just one more cone!

My friend Kehala and I enjoying some yummy Chocolate Mousse ice cream.

4. Spanish.

It sounds obvious, but I will really miss having constant opportunities to work on my Spanish skills. I love walking outside and being surrounded by Spanish (something that was a bit terrifying when I first arrived). I love the way Argentines speak Spanish. They speak with so much passion and exaggeration that it’s almost theatrical.

Answering trivia questions (in Spanish) during my first month here.

5. Traveling.

One thing this experience has taught me is that traveling is not nearly as hard as we pretend it is. There were multiple times here that I decided to take a weekend trip somewhere and simply went. It didn’t take months of planning, it often didn’t take a lot of money. I will miss that spontaneous thinking, but I hope I can bring it back with me. There are so many places to see in the U.S., why not go for a weekend?

Biking in Northern Argentina.

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This post first appeared on July 22 on the University of South Carolina’s study abroad blog.

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The title of this post is a Czech Proverb that my friend quoted the other day during lunch.  I have been thinking about these nine words since then.

In coming to Buenos Aires, one of my main goals was to become functionally fluent in Spanish. Technically, I have been studying the language for eight years (high school and college) but upon arriving here, I did not feel comfortable speaking to native speakers at all.  Today was the last day of my intensive month-long Spanish class and I am amazed at how far I’ve come in just four weeks.

The whole ASA gang out for drinks five weeks ago.

Today on the way home from class, I stopped by a fruit stand to buy a few apples.  I had the following conversation with the vendor:

Me: I’ll take two red apples and two green apples.

Vendor: Ok. Are you North American?

Me: laughs, Yes, I’m from the United States.  Is it obvious?

Vendor: Oh yes, very obvious. Want me to wash these for you?

Me: Oh yes, thanks a bunch!

While not an intellectual conversation about the state of Argentine politics, I was thrilled that this exchange didn’t consist mainly of finger pointing, “Sí,” and “¿Qué?. In this moment, I realized that I truly understand more than I did a month ago and I can express myself a bit more clearly.  In other words, I’m getting there.

In addition, my host mom, Carmen, told me that she’s surprised how much better my Spanish has become.  So, I’m not making this up!

I realized last week that the moment I started to feel more comfortable with this new language was the moment that I stopped trying to translate everything directly. I realized that I have to think in Spanish to be able to speak in it.  This is a fact that others have told me but I never truly understood it until I experienced it.  This brings me back to the Czech proverb.  Learning a new language is not just about learning rojo means red and lo siento means I’m sorry.  It’s teaching yourself a whole new way of thinking. I have to think how would a Spanish speaker express this thought – not how do I translate what I want to say. A new way of thinking – a new “soul”.

I still wouldn’t call myself fluent but I am excited to see how much I improve over the next four months. But for now, I’m off to catch a bus for a 21-hour drive to Salta, a northern province of Argentina, for the next week. I’ll let you know how that goes in my next post. Chau!

This post first appeared on July 3 on the University of South Carolina’s study abroad blog.

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One of my main reasons for coming to Argentina for five months was to immerse myself in the Spanish language.  I’ve been studying it for years but always in a classroom.  I knew that I needed to speak it everyday before I would truly know the language.  And, for the past two weeks, I’ve noticed that my brain goes into “survival mode” when I have no options other than to speak Spanish.  Yesterday, I had such an experience.

I mentioned in a previous post that my host mom has a student from the States renting out a room in her house for the first month that I’m here.  The student’s name is Tejinder and she’s actually from India but she’s working on her PhD at Ohio University. Today she had a terrible toothache and Carmen suggested that she go to the hospital at the University of Buenos Aires. Unfortunately for Teji, our host brother Nico was unable to go with her to help translate (he speaks pretty good English) and my roommate Stephanie, who speaks much better Spanish than I, was in bed all day with an awful cold/flu. So, she asked me if I would go to the UBA Hospital to help translate for her since she only knows basic Spanish.

La Facultad de Medicina at the University of Buenos Aires

We made our way down the Subte to la Facultad de Medicina.  After wandering through a couple buildings, asking multiple people “¿Donde está la guarda de odontologia?” we managed to find the Dental Urgent Care Center.

Luckily the receptionist spoke a little English. Between my broken Spanish, her broken English and Teji and I’s limited ability to communicate with the doctor directly, we were able to get all the information we needed. In total, we spent about 4 hours on this adventure and I literally kissed the receptionist and doctor when we left, so thankful to have gotten through it (this is much more socially acceptable here than in the U.S…). And, amazingly, it left me feeling slightly more confident in my ability to survive on this foreign continent.

Exploring Buenos Aires

August 22, 2011

I realize that I’ve been pretty bad about updating this blog lately. So, here goes, I’m going to fill you in on my recent travels in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the city that makes NYC look like a city filled with lazy people that sleep all the time!

This post originally appeared on June 26 on the University of South Carolina’s study abroad blog.

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This post is coming a bit late this week because I’ve had some trouble deciding what to write about.  My first week here has been quite busy so I’ll give you the highlights.

La Casa Rosada (The Pink House), the building of the executive branch of the government of Argentina, is brightly lit at night.

I finally flew in last Saturday morning after many delays and hours in the airport.  I think my delays were for the best though, because I sat next to an older woman on my flight who just happens to live only a couple blocks from my house in Belgrano (one of the 48 neighborhoods in Buenos Aires). What are the odds?! She was the nicest woman, and we exchanged phone numbers and addresses so I hope to see her again.

On Sunday we took a bus tour of the city with Gaby, our program director, and since then we’ve had a completely free week to explore the city.  I’ve seen quite a few things but my favorites so far were the Museo de Arte Latino-americano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), the Evita Museum, Recoleta Cemetery and the Japanese Garden.

I had heard a lot about the Recoleta Cemetery before I came here but words truly don’t do it justice.  I pictured a cemetery full of extravagant gravestones but Recoleta is more like a city of elaborate crypts and tombs than a cemetery.  Many of the eternal resting places of Buenos Aires’ wealthiest families are nicer than my house!  There is a saying in Bs As that goes “It is cheaper to live extravagantly all your life than to be buried in Recoleta” and after seeing the cemetery I can see why.

One of my favorite crypts in Recoleta - older and less extravagent than many.

A "street" in Recoleta Cemetary.

I adjusted quickly to the porteño sense of time: dinner is much later (usually 10 although my host mom feeds us around 8), many of the dance clubs or boliches don’t even open until 2 am, meaning coming home at 6 am is a normal night.  I’ve become quite a fan of spending hours sitting in a café sipping coffee or wine and solving the world’s problems with a  friend or reading a book.  Porteños (people from Buenos Aires) know how to relax and always have an opinion about everything – I think I’ll fit in nicely here.

A Spanish-style tortilla (an egg and cheese dish, this one with potatoes) - one of the many delicious meals I've had here so far.