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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I just got back from my third photography class here in Buenos Aires. It can be a bit overwhelming at times. Unlike the university classes I’m taking for credit, I’m the only native English-speaker and the class is not designed around my needs. In addition to a lot of fast Spanish, the discussions often involve technical photography terms which sound nothing like their English counterparts that I am so familiar with. But, I’m not complaining.  The class is fantastic practice for my Spanish (although I don’t think I’ll ever be able to roll those damn R’s) and everyone in the class, professor included, is incredibly patient and helpful with me. I even had a brief conversation about my 24-mm lens today with another student!

This past week, our assignment was to take photos to illustrate the different rules of composition. A pretty typical assignment but it was a fun way to challenge myself. It forced me to look for out of the ordinary situations. These are a few of my favorites – apparently I was particularly drawn to unique lighting this week. Enjoy!

Silhouette of tree branches in a park in Buenos Aires.

Palacio Hirsch in Belgrano "R", Buenos Aires.

A candle glows in the "Rotunda" Cathedral in Belgrano, Buenos Aires.

A drawing of John Lennon in Barrancas Park, Belgrano, Buenos Aires.

A view of the obelisk down a street in El Centro of Buenos Aires.

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!

My First Peña

August 24, 2011

This post originally appeared on July 10 on the University of South Carolina’s study abroad blog.

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Last night I had an entirely South American experience. My host mom’s brother, Sergio, invited my roommate, Stephanie, and I to a “recital” and dinner at his house. Sergio is a musician and music teacher so we knew the music would be wonderful. In South America, this type of gathering is called a Peña. I looked up the word online and found it described as “a grass-roots community meeting place where popular folklore and other artistic expressions accompanied by food and drink are showcased”. In other words, it was awesome.

At the Peña with Steph, Alex and Campbell (I'm the one on the far left)

We arrived to Sergio’s house, a beautiful home tucked away behind a garden (with a Lemon Tree!) in Belgrano, paid the 25 pesos (about $6) for the show and sat down at our table. Sergio’s living room, was filled with tables covered with colorful tablecloths and a cacophony of various chairs for guests to sit on. Sergio was surprised that we were “so punctual!” when in fact we were a few minutes late. But, in Argentina, if you aren’t 30 minutes late, you’re early.

My host brother, Nico, was the waiter for the night and he brought us locro, empanadas, bread, and, of course, Malbec. Locro is a hearty Argentine stew made with corn, white beans, beef, chorizo and veggies and it was as amazing as Carmen said it would be.

Some of the wonderful music. Sergio is the man playing guitar on the far left.

After chowing down for a while, we sat back and listened to about 3 hours of folk music. Since it was Argentina’s Independence Day, all the music was Argentine, although Sergio said they often play Peruvian, Bolivian and other South American styles of music. We also heard a little rock and roll style music. My favorite part of the night is that it was such a communal atmosphere; most people in the room seemed to know each other, so there were jokes being yelled about the room and we were encouraged to join in for many of the songs.

Apparently, we Americans managed to not embarrass Sergio too much because he invited us back for next month’s Peña. I can guarantee you that I’ll be there.

Argentine Locro (courtesy of Wikipedia)

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.