Happy Memorial Day!

May 28, 2012

I’d like to take a quick moment to wish everyone a Happy Memorial Day. I spent last night at a cookout at the house of one of my good friends, Brian – a Marine I met while studying abroad in Argentina.  A house full of Marines and their families – talk about a perfect way to remind yourself what Memorial Day is all about.

For my senior thesis, I had the pleasure of spending a year following the lives of the Cashion Family. Joe Cashion is a Sergeant in the Army and volunteered for a six-month deployment to Afghanistan. I followed the family before, during and after Joe’s deployment. I learned so much from them and will always treasure the way they opened their lives to me.

In honor of Memorial Day, I wanted to re-post the multimedia project I created.

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Some of you may have wondered what happened to me after my Argentina Adventures. Well, I cried a few days over Malbec and Tango withdrawal, then I spent a couple of months of quality time with my family in Ohio (which was pretty great). And this past December, I packed my things and moved to Charleston, South Carolina to start my life in the “real world”.

For the past couple of years, I’ve worked as an intern with Microburst Learning, an e-learning company based in South Carolina, and after my graduation in December, I started with them as a full-time employee. My job duties have increased in both quantity and responsibility level and I’ve spent the past five months adjusting to those changes.

So far, I love living in Charleston (who wouldn’t?!) and I have really enjoyed the new challenges my new role has offered me. When I’m not traveling to film, I work from home – which is pretty freakin’ awesome, but it also means that I don’t spend a lot of time with my fellow employees. A few months ago, I decided I wanted to organize an event that the whole Microburst team could do together. Which brings me to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

One-half of Team Microburst Learning (we split into two groups for the walk) with our fabulous sand castle.

My mom is a nurse and has worked with Cystic Fibrosis patients throughout her career. We also have a family history of the disease so my brothers and I grew up with a broad understanding of CF. And, I remember going to functions and camps run by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation as a child. So, when I was looking for a group to volunteer with when I moved to Charleston, the CF Foundation came to mind.

Every year CFF does a walk called Great Strides to raise money for CF research. Luckily, I convinced my coworkers to start a corporate team with me and we just participated in the walk a week ago. So far, our team has raised $1000! And, just as importantly, we had an awesome time at the walk!

Enjoying some downtown with the daughters of two of my co-workers.

We opted to participate in the “Challenge” Course which involved ten challenges such as sand darts, charades and sand castle building. All the activities were really fun and I’m proud to say that our team WON the Challenge Course!

Team Microburst Learning working tirelessly on our sand castle. Doing this challenge with so many creative people was a lot of fun!

The husbands of two of my co-workers enthusiastically accept our Challenge Course award.

We topped off the day with some good ol’ Southern BBQ and ice cream. Yum, yum!

Moving forward, I plan to continue working with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (we’re in the middle of planning a bike race!). Have you been to any fun charity events lately?

A couple of weeks ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to photograph a hair drive at the Bishop England High School on Daniel’s Island, South Carolina. Christine Ronco, a teacher at Bishop England, organized the drive for Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to children suffering from long-term medial hair loss.

McKenzi Mazur, a sophomore at Bishop England High School, nervously waits while her hair is cut.

Ronco told the students about the drive last fall, giving the girls almost an entire school year to grow their locks.

McKenzi Mazur, an energetic sophomore, said she was “really nervous” but was glad that she decided to donate. “It’s the least I could do – I wanted to do it for kids who are sick”.

Christine Ronco, the teacher who organized the hair drive, was one of two faculty members who participated in the drive.

A crowd of students gathered in the courtyard at Bishop England High School to watch the Hair Drive during their lunch hour.

Prior to the drive, Ronco had a list of 30 girls who were going to donate. By the end of the lunch hour, over 75 girls had donated up to a foot of their hair!

The youngest donor, Phoebe Govett, 7, was one of the calmest in the face of the shears. Her mother, Ashley Govett, said that she had been wanting to donate her hair for a long time. When she heard about the school drive from a friend, she asked if she could bring Phoebe along. “I wanted to donate to a kid who doesn’t have any hair,” Phoebe told me.

Phoebe Govett, 7, admires her new, shorter hair.

The drive was a huge success and I really enjoyed spending the afternoon at the event.

Sidney Copleston, a student at Bishop England High School, can’t hide her fear while her long locks are cut. “Oh my gosh! It’s all gone!” she exclaimed afterwards.

Malbec and Mate in Mendoza

November 7, 2011

A month ago, two of my friends and I made a pretty impromptu decision to spend a weekend in Mendoza. I knew I wanted to see the famous wine country before I returned to the U.S. and since we had only a few free weekends remaining we decided to go for it.

A week after buying our bus tickets, Phoebe, Kehala and I were on an overnight bus (18 hours) to Mendoza city. Luckily we got the three front seats on the upper deck, giving us an entire front window to look out.

My travel buddies, Kehala and Phoebe, checking our map during the bus ride from Buenos Aires.

After surviving the questionable dinner we were served, we arrived in Mendoza around 11 am on a Friday. We found our hostel (Hostel Estacion Mendoza) and immediately started exploring the town. The city is pretty small (population about 111,000) so it was a nice change from Buenos Aires.

We visited the Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno (Municipal Museum of Modern Art) which is located under the fountain in Plaza Independencia. It was pretty cool to walk under the fountain and into an art museum. The entrance fee was cheap (about $5 USD) but the museum was underwhelming. They had an interesting photography exhibit on Brazilian Laborers in the 1940s but after visiting art museums in Buenos Aires, this one couldn’t stack up.

Old barrels in the Museo del Vino.

But, let’s be honest, we weren’t in Mendoza for the art. So, Saturday morning, we packed some snacks and made our way to Mr. Hugo’s Bike Tours on Rioja Street, which is accessible via Buses 171, 172 and 173. “Mr. Hugo” was a jovial older man that eagerly greeted us with plastic cups of cheap wine. We waited our turn and met with one of the employees who gave us a map and suggestions of his favorite stops. We paid AR$30 for each bike for the day, stashed our complementary bottles of water and hit the road.

The map did a good job of leading us to the vineyards (although it was decidedly not to scale) and we enjoyed the freedom of having our own timetable. Our first stop was the Museo del Vino, an old, still functioning winery turned museum. We explored the rooms of old wine-making equipment, were perplexed by the Hall of Weapons and tasted the Museum’s Malbec, which was quite delicious and rivaled many of the bottles I’ve had in Buenos Aires (although I’m no oenologist).

Phoebe and I enjoying a wine tasting at the Museo del Vino.

We then made our way to a Liquor, Olive Oil and Chocolate Factory where we tasted a number of yummy jams, olive oils, olives, chocolates and liquors. The olives in Mendoza were absolutely delectable. My host mom could spend hours talking about the divinity of Mendoza olives, so trust me, they’re yummy. We had a quick picnic lunch in the factory’s lawn and moved on.

Biking the wine trail.

We arrived at Trapiche Vineyards, the largest producer of wine in Argentina, only to discover there was no more space on the tours. Unfazed, we rode to the Beer Garden on our map. The “garden” turned out to be a family’s backyard with picnic tables and couches scattered about. We handed the mother our coupons for a free snack with a pint of beer (blonde ale, red ale or dark lager) and watched as the father stuffed homemade empanadas. After sitting down on a couch, the couple’s adorable 8-year-old daughter brought out our chips and beer (apparently liquor laws aren’t as strict here). The beer was a great way to relax after biking all morning. (Taking a break from tasting wine by having a beer, it’s a rough life, I know.) If you use Mr. Huge, be sure to stop at the Beer Garden, it was a great place to rest and meet other bikers from the trail.

The three of us enjoying some relaxation time at the beer garden.

Try not to get too jealous.

We then began a longer trek to Mevi Vineyards. On the way I realized I had a flat tire, which forced us to stop at a gas station and call Mr. Hugo. We waited about 20 minutes for a man to drive me out a new bike and then hit the road again. We finally made it to Mevi, our last stop of the day due to the flat-tire-delay. This chic, modern vineyard was well worth the wait. The white, clean-lined building was a beautiful contrast to the fields of grapes. The three of us enjoyed relaxing in the sun on the back porch before trying seven of the vineyard’s wines. The Malbec was my favorite (duh!) but I also enjoyed the Syrah.  We did one tasting of “young” wines, wines that had been fermenting for less than a year. It was interesting to taste the young wine and compare it to the same wine that had fermenting for a more standard time (1-2 years), which is what made up our second tasting.

The infamous tire.

Relaxing on the balcony at Mevi vineyards.

A tasting of "young" wines.

A tasting of reserves.

After we got back to Mr. Hugo’s, we sat on the porch and rehashed our day with other bikers.  We met a couple of Portuguese girls and three Danish guys that we ended up having dinner with back in the city.  One of my favorite parts of traveling is meeting other people from such a variety of backgrounds.

The next morning, we went rafting with a company our hostel suggested. Since it was early in the season, the rapids were still quite small (about level 2) but it was fun for a first-timer like me!

Later on, we spent some time exploring the city and while playing cards back at our hostel, a college student that works there invited us to go hang out at the park with some of his friends.  He told us they would be playing music, drinking mate and just hanging out.  We were excited to hang out with some locals and eagerly followed. When we got to the park, we were greeted by a large group of Argentine hippies.  One of the highlights of my trip was the hour or so we spent listening to music, drinking mate and watching people dance. They were some of the most hospitable people I’ve ever met and I was sad to have to head back to Buenos Aires so soon after meeting them.

Enjoying the drum circle.

Sipping some mate and listening to the music.

Overall it was a great trip and I would highly recommend visiting wine country if you’re ever in Argentina. It’s a wonderful contrast to the bustling city life I’ve been immersed in these past 5 months.

What’s this?! An actual blog post? I know, I know, it’s been awhile. Very sorry for the long absence but I promise I will be updating this week with stories of my latest adventures. Pinky swear.

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September 11th was the date for this year’s Festival of the Moon(La Festival de la Luna), one of the oldest and most important holidays in Chinese culture.  For the first time, Buenos Aires’ Chinatown hosted an outdoor festival to honor the holiday. Conveniently, Barrio Chino is a mere three blocks from my house so I decided to check it out with a few girlfriends of mine.

According to the flier I received, the holiday occurs every year on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month when, according to legend, the moon is the most full and bright of the whole year.

Paper lanterns hang above the street during the Festival de la Luna in Buenos Aires' Chinatown.

And, according to legend, Chang Er flew to the moon where she now lives and you may see her dancing up there during the Moon Festival. The festival is one of the most important holidays in Chinese culture.  Families often reunite to watch the full moon and celebrate together.

Martial Arts show during the Moon Festival. They were pretty impressive.

Buenos Aires’ Chinatown is quite small, as I mentioned in a previous post, but there was a crowd of people stuffed into  four blocks. Some friends and I browsed the market stands, listened to a singer, watched a Martial Arts show and enjoyed some “Asian Cuisine” at a restaurant. Hey, it can’t be entirely authentic, we are in Argentina after all.

Members of the Chinatown Association carried the dragon through the streets.

We enjoyed watching the dragon meander through the streets.

Altogether it was a nice, relaxing day and a good way to enjoy some of the early spring weather we were having. It was also pretty exciting to experience some Chinese culture while living in South America.

My first experience with Melon Popcicles. So yummy!

Hi everyone, I’m sorry about the brief delay in posts. Would you believe they make us give presentations and take midterms during study abroad?! How rude! Anyway, I’ve been trying to get caught up with school work and thus am a little behind in posting. So expect a couple this week to make up for the absence.

Two weeks ago, I went with my program to Iguazú Falls for the weekend. At 5:30 am, after being woken by my roommate, Stephanie, since I slept through my alarm, the two of us took a cab to the domestic airport in Buenos Aires, Jorge Newberry.  There, we met the other six students from our program and our site director, Gaby.

The whole ASA gang. I'm the short girl in the middle.

We then took a two-hour, uneventful flight from Buenos Aires to the airport in Iguazú. Did you know? Airlines in Argentina serve meals even for short domestic flights, score!

We were met at the airport by our guide, Bea. She gave us a brief overview of our schedule, gave us some tips for exploring the town and explained that the name “Iguazú” comes from the Guarani words for “big water”.

We arrived at our hotel, the beautiful Jardin de Iguazú, and I immediately grabbed my book (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, loved it!) and went to relax by the pool.  When we left Buenos Aires, the weather was in the upper-50’s, lower-60’s (Fahrenheit), so the 90-degree weather in Iguazú felt like summer break!

The pool at our hotel. I spent a lot of time relaxing here during the weekend.

After a morning of relaxing and exploring the little town of Iguazú, we were picked up by our zip-lining and rappelling guide. Driving by the rickety zip-line platforms in the jungle did nothing to calm my nerves, but I was determined not to miss out on the fun. After getting geared up, we climbed the wooden staircase (the scariest part) to the take-off point. After waiting in line, I clipped in and was on my way.

Zip-lining through the trees. Too fast even for the camera! Thanks to my friend David for the photo.

Upon seeing the first platform, I started slowing down too early and got stuck out on the line. Luckily, one of the guides quickly clipped on, used his arms to “zip” towards me, interlocked my ankles in his feet and pulled me the rest of the way to the platform.  Clearly I’m not the only person that’s done that!

We zipped between 4 different platforms and honestly I was more afraid climbing on the rickety wooden platforms than actually being on the line. It was pretty incredible to be floating above the trees like that. Once I relaxed, I really enjoyed the view from up there.  Definitely an experience I want to repeat!

One of the platforms we zip-lined to.

After zip-lining, we went to another part of the forest to go rappelling. Maybe I was feeling invincible after conquering the zip-line, but I was not afraid at all for the rappelling. Big mistake. The rappelling wasn’t particularly adventurous or scary (I mean, come on, I’ve been skydiving for goodness sake!) but I wasn’t prepared for the drop my stomach took when I first went down the cliff. Was pretty fun though!

Attempting to rappel down a cliff near Iguazú Falls. Scarier than I expected!

Saturday we spent the day hiking through the Iguazú Falls National Park (a UNESCO world heritage site), waved at Brasil from across the river, and enjoyed the many views of the falls. Unfortunately, a recent flood had torn down the pedestrian bridge to the largest waterfall, La Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat), but we were still able to view it from afar. Personally,  I was more impressed by the line of 8-10 large waterfalls in a row (there are a total of 275 drops in the park).

Getting sprayed by the Falls.

Being at the falls, I was reminded of something a friend of mine told me before I came to Argentina, “Iguazú Falls makes Niagara look like a faucet!”. I have to agree.

A Coati in Iguazú Falls National Park. This little guy tried to unzip my purse and steal my apple!

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.