I came here thinking I would write in my journal. I even brought a brand new journal just for Argentina, but I never even opened it. I started with the excuse that I wanted to buy a pretty one from here. But then that never happened either. I failed at journaling while abroad. But I don’t feel as bad about it because I had this class. Through the topics that we discussed and wrote about, I feel that I reflected on some good thoughts that I had here that maybe I wouldn’t have journaled about in the first place. I feel that I have a good keepsake from this class. It was awesome to have to sit down and reflect on my life abroad. I am so glad that I have this.
I cannot believe that it is over. I go home in four days and don’t really know what to do about that. I haven’t done a thing to get ready, nor do I want to start. I absolutely hate packing. I don’t want to believe that I am leaving (even though I am slightly excited to go home). I have had the most amazing four months. It was probably the fastest semester of my life. I am so grateful for everything that I have done and seen here. This entire semester has been so perfect. I would say the hardest thing would have been adjusting to the semi-annoying-for-an-American-inefficiency of Latin America. But honestly, I even transitioned to all of those tidbits quite smoothly as well. I got used to my shower curtain falling and hitting me on the head. I got used to the slow motion world around me. I got used to walking with my head down to dodge the constant dog sh*t. I just loved it. I absolutely loved my time abroad. I am completely content with my semester. I made amazing friends. I traveled to some places that all compete with being the most beautiful place I have ever been. I learned Spanish and bonded with the most amazing host family. I guess the worst part is that while bonding over food and drinks with everyone, I got fat. My b.
As much as I love it here, I am getting kind of ready to go home. I don’t like that it is 80 degrees out when I am listening to Christmas music (not the same as my home in the snowy mountains). I’m sick of looking like I have chicken pox because all of my millions of mosquito bites swell up. I am so ready to eat a freaking turkey sandwich for once and not have to look at ham for a good month. And most importantly, I am SOO ready to go home to my bed. The one thing I never liked here in Argentina was my lame ass bed. It didn’t even dent when I would jump on it. The sucker is rock hard.
I know that when I go home, I will get the age-old question: how was it? And you know, that most people asking, are just looking for conversation and a quick sum up answer. But how the h*ll are we supposed to sum up the most amazing semester of your life into a sentence?! “It was amazing!” I will respond. They will smile. End of conversation. No one will ever really know quite how my life in Buenos Aires was besides everyone else here that went through it with me. That is one thing that I will always have with the fifty other students here: a special bond of experience and understanding. We will all always have these past four months together. And unless someone wants to take me to coffee to REALLY know how my semester was, then no one will know much of anything besides that it was “so amazing”.
I have to just start off by saying that I truly enjoyed this class. Going in, I expected to just fill out a meaningless blog post every few days, giving a couple of updates of the things I’ve been doing during my same here. However, as the semester went on, I realized that both the readings and the questions challenged me to think about travel and the whole study abroad experience in a way that I never would have. Having to read, write and reflect has really helped me understand and verbalize the importance of my experiences here. I don’t think that there’s been one “most rewarding aspect” of my time here. Instead, I feel that the entire experience of beginning to master another language and truly immersing myself in another culture has been incredible. It not only has helped me to appreciate the Argentine culture, but my own as well. As for problems, I really can’t say I faced anything to drastic. Probably the most difficult challenge I faced was deciding where to travel/what things to do. However, I knew that I’d want to have more than just four months here, so I will actually be staying on in Buenos Aires for the next semester to continue studying abroad here. So, I’ll be able to continue traveling and exploring, both the greater Argentina and South America as well as Buenos Aires. Instead of going home during the two-month break, I will be traveling to Brazil for about a month and then Chile for two weeks, before returning back to Buenos Aires. I think that NYU could do a few things to make this study abroad better. For starters, they should let students have the option of renting an apartment, instead of forcing them to either live in a residence or with a host family. It is ridiculous, we’re all adults, and we should be able to choose where we live. Secondly, they should allow students to have the option of taking a class/classes at a local university. Thirdly, they should establish the possibility of getting credit for an internship. I had a really cool internship here that I would be getting credit for in New York, but they don’t have it set up here yet. Other than that, I must say that I’ve been really pleased with my study abroad experience here. Years from now, while I’m sure I won’t remember all the specific names of people I’ve met and places I’ve gone, I will remember the excitement and the incredibly feeling of possibility that each day brought. The feeling of exploring and meeting a new friend or experiencing a new adventure at any moment. That and the awesomeness that is choripan.
I really enjoyed the Art of Travel course. It was nice to write about things that were happening to me throughout the semester. If not for this course, I would not have been able to articulate thoughts that were stewing in my brain. Study abroad was the best experience of my life. I had very little work both school and otherwise. I had zero responsibilities and no extra curricular activities. I saved enough money so that I could enjoy myself, and that is exactly what I ended up doing.
During my last week in Buenos Aires, I have decided to have steak every single day. I have become an expert on local grill restaurants, known as Parillas, and all the different types of meat that they offer. My favorite is entrana, also known as skirt steak I love Bunos Aires.
The biggest problem I faced during my experience in Buenos Aires was the fact that my host family didn't allow me to shower after they went to sleep. They went to sleep quite early, making my showering a bit of a hassle. I started showering in the middle of the day, or right after dinner which I was not very pleased with. Usually, I like taking a shower right before I sleep because it calms me down, I, however, have not been able to do that. Que lastima!
I will do a couple of things differently when I get home. First of all, I will eat more meat, because I will know a lot more about it. Second, I will go back to my regular shower cycle. Third, I will probably watch more soccer, because I really began to like watching soccer while being here in Argentina. Fourth, I will definitely speak more Spanish when I get back to the states, because I feel way more comfortable with it now.
My biggest accomplishment is my new found ability to speak Spanish. Before I came down to Buenos Aires, I spoke very little. Now, I feel very comfortable with the language and I enjoy the language very much. The hardest part about dealing with a new language is taking what you learned in a classroom setting and learning how to apply it to the real world. For example, when you learn a new word that is one thing. However, understanding that that word is being used being masked by the noise and the accent is a whole different thing. I wish everyone has a chance to experience what I have experienced. Learn Spanish and come to Argentina.
Four months ago I could never have even begun to think about experiencing that which I have in the past semester. Good times, bad times, lord I've had my share, but all in all this has been a completely worthwhile experience that I would recommend to all contemplating whether or not to go on a study abroad program.
Some of the best moments on my trip came from escaping the group mentality of NYU and venturing out into the world by myself. Whether meeting argentine people in random bars and clubs throughout the city, or hopping on a bus of which I had no clue of the direction it was heading, getting out and experiencing life in Buenos Aires provided me with the most worthwhile experiences. The program is somewhat structured to keep you within the group, whether through housing or through the academic center, but by leaving the group behind I discovered a lot more about my own being as well as the city to which I called home for four months. I also think traveling outside of Buenos Aires by myself provided me with some of the most amazing moments on my trip. When the only person you have to rely on is yourself, it can be quite scary, but also quite rewarding. Though Buenos Aires is a fantastic city with plenty of places to offer for any kind of traveler, getting out and seeing what existed beyond the metropolis made me appreciate what I had within it. Though it can be nerve wrecking to get on a 14 hour bus ride to a random city you have never been to before in the middle of the countryside in Argentina, once you get there the feeling is indescribable. Whether river rafting in Mendoza, glacier touring in Calafate or getting soaked by waterfalls in Iguazu, I had much better times on the road than staying put in my surroundings.
The staying put and just living in Buenos Aires made me encounter some of the greatest problems I faced. At times I got so caught up in thinking about life after BA that I couldn't just enjoy my time abroad. As terrible as that sounds, one can only fully realize the impact it has on you when it happens to you. I think part of this problem stemmed just from my own anxieties and fears, but the majority of it came from the fact that I'm graduating next semester. I think I would have had a much greater appreciation for my time abroad if I had gone during my junior year. The fact that I face so many unknowns facing ,e when I get back to the US left me never wanting to leave my apartment in Buenos Aires at times. Looking back with just a couple days to go, I would have told my past self to stop being such a pansy and to think about the fact that I may never live in another country again for the rest of my life. But you can't change the past, you can only learn from it....so in looking towards the future I will try not to get so caught up in my insecurities.
Being able to blog about myself weekly really enabled me to reflect on what was happening during my trip. Sometimes just writing things down can provide you with the power to analyze and understand exactly what you are experiencing in a given time in a given place. "The Art of Travel" course is a great way to give permanent existence to fleeting memories and moments in time. I know I will look back years from now and laugh at my writing, laugh at my perspective on life and for that I'm very thankful.
I think it is my duty to tell others just what the program in Buenos Aires is like. The staff are very helpful and really make you feel at home, However, the classes here are just terrible. They had no direction, no greater meaning in the world of education and they made me feel like I was wasting money on schooling that was below NYU standards. Though some professors are quite intelligent and though they mean well in the long run, I felt like I needed professors that challenged and inspired me. Besides the school though, life in Buenos Aires is more than amazing.
Though scary times await me in the heart of winter in NYC, I'm ready to leave this place behind and start anew. As one of my favorite lyricist of all time Trey Anastasio says "This has all been wonderful, but now I'm on my way." I hope that everyone out there in the blogosphere takes advantage of the fleeting days they have abroad and I look forward to meeting some of you down the line in NYC. Thanks for providing me with small insights into your personalities and your lives abroad. Chao.
How can it already be four months? I mean, I know that everyone says that the study abroad experience is always feels short, but I guess I just had to find out for myself. Firstly, I think studying in Buenos Aires is a great choice. This city has an amazing amount to offer. The program here is really fantastic. The only downsides (for me) were that you’re not allowed to take classes at local universities and that all of the students are from the states. I have two pieces of advice that I’d offer: one, have an open mind and take advantage of any opportunity you’re given, and two, get involved in an activity outside of NYU. Some of the things I’ve treasured most about my trip and some of the best times I’ve had have come from meeting and talking to random people I’ve met here. I think that having a certain openness and willingness to meet new people, something that MANY lack at NYU in New York, will truly enhance your stay. Even if it’s just someone or something you meet or do for one random night, those can be the best experiences you’ll have. As for number two, I, for example, played in an ultimate frisbee league here in Buenos Aires. This activity was not only fun, but I also got to meet a lot of great people and be part of another community here. Whatever you’re interested in, try to find it here in Buenos Aires.
Preparation? The only thing you need to prepare yourself for in being open and ready to have an amazing time. There are a million cool places I could list in this post, but honestly, the most fun part is exploring. My million cool places aren’t going to be the same as your million cool places, which I’m sure you’ll find when you come here. To be real, exploring is one of the best parts about studying abroad. Of course you should travel around Argentina/South America, but don’t forget about exploring the city. One thing I’d highly recommend is to never stop exploring. It can be easy to just go to the same places over and over, but take the initiative to venture to new neighborhoods and restaurants and you’ll be highly rewarded. There’s soooo much to do this city, more than anyone could possibly do, so don’t restrict yourself to staying in just a few/one neighborhood–Palermo–like so many people on my program did (even though there’s a lot of cool bars/restaurants there). Lastly, stay with a host family, you already lived in the dorms freshman year. If you don’t like your situation you can always switch, but you’ll be infinitely more rewarded living with a host family, you won’t regret it.
In the past four months I have experienced both some of the best moments in my life as well as some of the worst. This statement essentially defines my study abroad experience as well as summarizes the opinions of others I have talked to, in Buenos Aires and other abroad sites. I would say that Buenos Aires is one of the best places to be but definitely doesn't have the best program. Buenos Aires is cheap, its fun, its in close proximity to amazing places and is has some of the most beautiful architecture and women in the world. Below I will provide a list of statements providing advice about life and times in BA.
1. Eat steak and eat a lot it. If you don't eat meat you will be finding yourself struggling to find alternative eats.
2. That said try to eat on the cheap side, find a couple good places and stick with them.
3. Use the money that you save on going out to travel outside of BA
4. Go to Mendoza and do the bike wine tour.
5. Go see the waterfalls in Iguazu
6. Go to El Calafate and do a tour of the glaciers
7. During spring break try and check out another country. My favorite had to be Bolivia- its cheap and has some of the best natural wonders in the universe. 4 day jeep tour of the salt flats= $70, nuf said
8. take a day trip to "el tigre", beautiful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city
9. If your going in spring take a boat down to Punta del Este in Uruguay. Pricy but beautiful
10. Best Clubs in Buenos Aires= Crobar, Asia de Cuba, Liquid, Pacha, Shampoo
11. If your into clubbing, this is the greatest place to do it. Clubs are way cheaper than NYC and stay open throughout the night.
12. Best Restaurants= Don Julio, La Cabrera, Osaka, Itamae, Mirasol
13. Don Julio is a great traditional Parilla with an amazing wine list and my absoulte favorite place to spend an evening. La Cabrera may be touristy but its steaks are some of the best on the planet. Try the Chorizo Mariposa= butterfly sausage. Osaka is a spin off of sushi with a peruvian twist. Its a little on the pricy side but its worth a visit at least once while your in Buenos Aires. Itamae its traditional sushi and if your sick of empanadas and steak, it is a great alternative
14. If you don't feel like going out to a restaurant, try making some of your own food or hitting up the cheap spots. La Poloma is right around the corner from the NYU site and serves up 6 peso choripan. Choripan is a sausage sandwich, which is high in fat but also high in the pleasure factor. One of my favorite lunch specials while I spend my time wasting away in school is fresh bread and avocado sandwiches. For 4 pesos or $1 you can get two bread rolls and an avocado, add some salt and serve up for the perfect little delicacy.
15. Best places to waste the night away drinking= el Alamo, Plaza Serrano, Milon, Levitar, Godoy
16. Though El Alamo might be an ex pat bar its the perfect place to meet argentine men and women. I've met and befriended countless Argentines there as well as watched plenty of sports games on sunday afternoons. Plaza Serrano is a great little spot in the Palermo neighborhood, full of bars and restaurants that stay open till the wee hours of the afternoon. Milon as I mentioned in another post is a fantastic Mansion converted into a bar that makes for a good location to take someone on a date. Levitar is a place hidden from the rest of the world that stays open until 2PM, not that I've been there that late, or one could say that early. Dj's of all sorts spin beats here and drinks are cheap and delicious. Godoy is close to Levitar and also situated in the Palermo neighborhood. It's got a great out door patio when the weather is right.
17. My Favorite parks= Parque 3 de Febrero, Parque Las Heras
18. Favorite Musuem= the MALBA, essentially the MOMA of BA
19. If you could live in one neighborhood I would say live on the border between Palermo and Recoleta. One huge problem with this program is that NYU makes it mandatory for you to live in a NYU housing site. I got out of it with a little bit of trickery and got my own apartment. NYU rips students off and sometimes sticks them in crazy home stays with Jesus worshipping freaks. Renting your own apartment is much cheaper and will give you more freedom to have people over for drinks or whatever.
20. Don't expect much from school here, classes are on the weak side. That said, some of the spanish Professors are really amazing including Pia Bouzas.
21. My last piece of advice has to be make the experience as memorable as possible. Don't stop yourself from meeting new people, seeing new places and living a tad bit on the wild side. Though things may get rough and though BA can be an inefficient place to live, there is nothing quite as amazing as living in another country thousands of miles away from home.
Bit of advice number one: STUDY ABROAD. It does not matter how long you do it for or even where you go, just do it! Studying abroad is one of the most valuable, eye-opening experiences of a person’s life. The second most important piece of advice is to hold no expectations. You will be let down. Everyone’s imagination romanticizes places, situations, etc. Wherever you go, it won’t be the same as dreamland. Just go into the situation without looking back. And go into with two feet. Don’t leave part of you behind at home, otherwise you will have the hardest time adjusting and adapting to your new home. It will almost be impossible. Have no inhibitions. Try everything once because who knows when you will ever have that chance again. It is always good to go out of your shell once in a while. Everything is a learning experience; thus, have no regrets…
As for Argentina…
- Try to make Argentine friends. I didn’t really make many. I wish I had.
- Speak Spanish as much as you can. Don’t be embarrassed. Just dooo it.
- Live in a homestay. Almost everybody does. You may get the crap end of the draw, but you can change families. Living with a foreign family makes you grateful for your own family, upbringing etc. It also gives you another home in another country…that’s awesome.
- Bring a watch or an alarm clock. They have no clocks here.
- See as much art as you can. Latin American art is amazing.
- Walk around Palermo SOHO. I guess you could maybe say it has a West Village feel to it.
- Go to the San Telmo street market on Sundays. It is a good experience.
- Monday nights at the Konex there is a 20 man improve drum show. AWESOME.
- Tuesday nights go to Jobs. That’s a good Tuesday night spot with pool tables, foosball, board games, and might I add, archery.
- Eat at Bar 6, Bar Uriarte, and Don Julio.
- Bring your own peanut-butter because they don’t have that here.
- Learn to take naps because you will die without them here.
- Have a good pair of walking shoes because the sidewalks are terrible.
- The money situation here is awful.
- They have a shortage of change. Hoard it.
- It is difficult to break a 100. Try to keep a lot of small bills on you at all times. A lot of places take only cash, but they never have change to give back to you.
- Watch out for fake money.
- There is dog poop everywhere. Watch out!
- The cab situation is funky here. They say to always call one, but I managed safely until now. Use your best judgment. Some are fake cabs. Try to at least always take a Radio Taxi (the main brand).
- Be patient. EVERYTHING is slow here and somewhat inefficient.
- Try a steak. They are the best here.
- Go to an estancia. They are beautiful.
- Try to see a soccer game. It is such a cultural experience.
- Eat bonbons (the candy).
- Try matte (the tea)
- And lastly, drink as much Malbec (red wine) as you can. It is so amazing and CHEAP. Take advantage while you can.
On Thanksgiving Day, I went to work. I volunteer with an organization here in Buenos Aires called Fundación Pro Vivienda Social (www.fpvs.org – check it out!) and it was just another day at the office. It was funny trying to explain to my coworkers here about Thanksgiving. Nobody real cares about the history, it’s all about family and eating, a lot. Anyways, not that it was a stressful day, but I’m just so used to spending Thanksgiving Day relaxing with family, playing or watching some football, and maybe watching a Bond or Rocky marathon. To be honest, it was kind of strange. It was just another day. When the day ended, I headed home and got ready for dinner. The academic center here in Buenos Aires hosted a Turkey Day feast. I personally thought it was a lovely thing for them to do, and an unexpected surprise to say the least. All I really wanted for my Thanksgiving here was to be with friends and eat a lot of food. I had been planning on going out and getting a huge steak to celebrate, but when NYU announced that they’d have dinner for us at the center, it was an easy and awesome way for all of us to get together and celebrate. To be real, my expectations weren’t too high. I thought we’d have some mediocre food, but great company. When I arrived at the center, it was decorated in a lovely fashion, with classic autumn colors (even though its late spring/early summer here). It ended up being a lovely. I mean, obviously they can’t touch my mama’s stuffing (or turkey, or sweet potatoes, or green beans for that matter…) but it was not bad. There were two whole turkeys and they were carving them right there. It really was a wonderful treat. Even though the “pumpkin pie” wasn’t really pumpkin pie, I was very pleasantly surprised by the rest of the meal. The best part was that I could be together with my buddies here and just have a nice, long, enjoyable meal. While this was the first Thanksgiving without any family (being from California and going to school in New York, I usually spend it with extended family, not my parents) it was still a really nice meal.
I heard that there will be one hundred kids here in NYU Buenos Aires next semester which is more than double the current size. Therefore, my first piece of advice would be to get to know the administrators. When the administrators know you, they will be able to help you when you need it. When you need something from them and they do not know you, they will less likely work hard for your cause. I would live in a home-stay, because it forces you to practice your Spanish. Living with a family also forces you to learn about Argentinian culture. There are some cons to living in a home-stay as well. Some people were unlucky and got families who were not nice or gave them very small rooms. Despite these cons, I would still recommend the home-stay. Bring your home-stay money in cash and pay the whole thing in the beginning so that you do not have to deal with it throughout the semester. Buy a Guia-T as soon as you get here and familiarize yourself with how to use it. Bring as much American cash as possible so you do not have to pay ATM fees. Bring a portable DVD player if you have one, because the long bus rides you take in this country make it worth it. Bring a digital camera so you can record your trip. I would also bring a notebook, so you can keep a journal about your trip. I would bring a guide book if you have one, because they are useful when trying to get around the first couple of days. Don't get your yellow fever shot in New York because you can get it here for free. Bring a hiking backpack, because it will be useful when you carry. I heard bad things about Tango, and Art class so try and avoid those. Creative writing is a great Gallatin class if you have the chance to take it, then take it. There is no peanut butter and hot sauce in this country so if you like them bring them. You definitely need a coin purse or a wallet that has an extra zipper pocket because of the coin crisis in this country. Buses only take change and therefore it is very hard to get your hands on some. Last but not least, make sure to find a local parilla because it is the closest thing to fast food in this country.
I figured since Thanksgiving in Argentina could not be remotely similar to Thanksgiving in the states that I might as well go for the extreme. My family had arrived the morning before, so I knew I had to plan something for them for Thanksgiving. So I invited my entire host family to come to dinner with my family, and we all went and ate at one of the best parilla restaurants in Buenos Aires (parilla is typical Argentine barbeque with a whole lot of red meat!!). The ten of us sat down at a long table and scattered ourselves out. My family doesn’t speak a lick of Spanish, and my host mom knows MINIMAL English, but we all managed to get by a 2.5 hour dinner together. Since we were feasting Argentine style, we went all out. For appetizers, we order chorizo (an Argentine specialty sausage), salads, and melted cheese blocks. For dinner, everyone besides my mom (who is vegetarian) had a big hunk of meat on his or her plate. And clearly, everyone was sipping on tasty Malbec (the best wine ever). Our meal definitely didn’t compare to a perfectly roasted turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, biscuits, and pies, but it was unique and so perfect for the moment. My family is all about new traditions and breaking the old. They loved it. My host mom loved the idea of Thanksgiving, a day in which family and friends come together to feast and celebrate everything we are thankful for. So we all sat around the table after we finished dinner and each person said what they were thankful for. Translations were being thrown across the room at every statement, but no matter what language was being spoken, everyone’s hearts were touched. My host mom Marina hugged and kissed my mom telling her how much she loved me and how happy she is to have me in her home. I responded stating how thankful I was to have two great mothers. Everyone was thankful to be in the room together sharing the moment. It was so great to have my family together with my host family on Thanksgiving. It was really special. When we got home from dinner, Marina kept telling me how much she loves Thanksgiving and that she is so happy to have celebrated it for her first time. It was my first time eating steak on turkey day, and it was her first time going around a table saying what they are thankful for. There is a first for everything.
The rest of the weekend I went to Patagonia with my family. We stayed in a remote hotel with only ten rooms in it in the middle of nowhere. It was on a turquoise lake in the windy mountains. We had the most amazing weekend hiking and riding horses in the solitude of the Argentine mountains. We definitely made the most of our Thanksgiving weekend taking advantage of everything around us and diving into the Argentine culture.
Every morning at 9:57 my dinky cell phone plays a little jingle to wake me up from my sweaty sleep in a stuffy room. I always hit snooze twice, so at 10:03 I roll out of bed to get dressed in the dark as my roommate continues to sleep. I have the routine down. I open up one shutter to get dressed, close it, and then proceed to open another shutter on the other side of the room to eat breakfast. I pick and choose what books I feel like carrying to school that day (I always try to carry as few things as possible). I grab my i-pod and start rocking out down the streets on my 30-minute walk to school. I zig-zag my way to Avenida Charcas and remain on that street the rest of the way to school. I walk down that street to and from school everyday. I couldn’t tell you a single store name on that street. I have clearly lost what De Botton calls the “travel mindset.” After my first stroll down Charcas, I stopped noticing the small details. I no longer paid attention to the people drinking coffee at the cafes or the flowers and fruits being sold along the street. My main focus quickly became what song should I listen to next as I get to school AS FAST AS I CAN.
I like the “travel mindset” theory. “The notion that the pleasure we derive from a journey may be more dependent on the mind-set we travel with than on the destination we travel to,” describes De Botton. I find this very true. If I wanted, I could take a walk down my driveway and notice things in nature that I had never noticed before. I could be entranced by my own land if I wanted to. Yet I always zoom through to get somewhere, either home or elsewhere. De Botton suggests that a travel mindset could consist of being receptive. I could find as many interesting things walking from my bed to the front door of my host family’s apartment as walking down Charcas street depending on how receptive and open my mind was. If I was in an explorative mode, anywhere could be foreign.
Departure day is in less than three weeks. I need to bring myself back to my original mindset that I had upon arrival in Buenos Aires. I can only be a tourist here for so much longer. I need to stop taking it all for granted as I storm to and from class. I want to continue to see and do as much as I can before I go, whether it is walking more slowly around the city or visiting museums. My time here is all up to me. I can either breeze through it or take the time to smell the roses.
I woke up on thanksgiving day, thinking more than ever about the fact that I hadn't seen my friends or family in months. As I dragged my ass out of bed I went straight to my computer and saw my email box full of messages from my parents and greater family. The overall message was "where the hell have you been for the past couple months?". It seems that my time abroad has left me unable to communicate with my family. I guess they don't understand the fact that living thousands of miles away from home actually makes one feel that they are thousands of miles away from home. Thus it was time to go through the motions of endlessly skyping away in an attempt to reconnect with what I had lost. So for about the first three hours of my day I skyped literally everyone and anyone I could think of. Some conversations where brief and cordial, a quick hello to a friend or a nice sentimental moment with a cousin. Than I moved on to tackling the bigger issues, those issues being my parents and my sister. First I called my sister, who immediately signed on so we could video chat. The first few minutes of the conversation consisted of her criticizing my lack of communication, to which I responded with the same argument. After a few harsh moments of an older sister taking it out on her less qualified younger brother, we proceeded to have the best conversation we had in months. Simultaneously I got to see the proceedings of the thanksgiving dinner that I should have been in attendance for. She took the computer around the kitchen pointing out every dish that my family was preparing for the night. See the closest relatives in my family had decided to have thanksgiving at my cousins brand new vacation home in upstate maine. So instead of having to go through the hassle of trying to get in touch with my parents and my closest cousins, they were all in one room and they could literally see me. I saw the dishes coming to fruition that I had so many times enjoyed in previous thanksgiving celebrations. Is was almost as if I was in the room with them. They were all drinking wine, so I poured myself a glass of wine and even though I was on another continent for a few fleeting moments I felt completely at home again. One by one each of my family members stood in front of the computer. We joked, we drank, we laughed and we expressed emotions that we hadn't been able to share for months. If I was thankful for one thing more than anything else on thanksgiving it was my internet connection and my skype application. After about an hour of fraternizing via the internet it was time to let my family go. The rest of my thanksgiving was quite uneventful. The study abroad site provided us with a nice meal that took an argentine twist on an American tradition. Yet, we couldn't drink wine, and at one point lil wayne was playing in the back ground so somethings just didn't feel right. Unfortunately my mind was stuck in a place that it was impossible for my body to be-that place being back in the US with my family, eating real stuffing and enjoying a hefty portion of artery clogging gravy.
My Thanksgiving story is simple but fulfilling. The holiday of Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because of the food. I love turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and everything else that is essential to a Thanksgiving feast. I started the day by having class. I am in Argentina and they have no idea what Thanksgiving is or that it even exists. I started the day by wishing my classmates lots of “Happy Thanksgivings,” but no one seemed to be in the mood. I don't blame them. It is hard to be in the mood for Thanksgiving when you have class all day. I myself had class from eleven to five. A really long day for a supposed holiday. In the middle of my day, I went up to the third floor of the school to ask the administrators if I could use the phone to call my parents. They told me no because they said that if, “They let me they have to let anyone.” I tried to tell them that I would keep it a secret but they would not let me. I then noticed that a classmate of mine, who I remembered being on Skype in the past, if I could use their computer to Skype my parents. I have a Skype account that I could use on her computer. However, when I asked her if I could borrow her computer, she mentioned that she had a Skype account with unlimited calling and that I could feel free to use it if I wished. I then proceeded to call my parents from the school lobby from Skype.
Later on in the day there was a Thanksgiving feast at school. At eight thirty everyone came out of the wood work for a feast. Even the administrators and there families came out to celebrate. The school had paid for caterers to carve turkeys, bake stuffing, and bring apple pie. The food was plentiful and so was the drink. The best part might have been the waitresses who came around and refilled your soda or water on demand. Therefore, one did not have to stand up to go get themselves more drink. The stuffing was great, because we didn't think Argentine's knew what stuffing was in the first place. The dessert was especially good containing apple pie, blueberry pie, coffee, and lemon pie. After dinner, I was so stuffed I went straight to sleep. God I love Thanksgiving.
I found it DeBotton’s chapter “On Habit,” to be one of the most interesting pieces we’ve read from him. I loved the concept of the “travel mindset” and of “room travel.” I think that far too often people, including myself, slip into a routine where things that were once marvelous become ordinary, or even worse, boring.
Just recently, a week or so before reading this piece, I was hanging out with my host brother Mickey and we went out for a walk. He dropped something off at a friend’s house, and afterwards when I asked him what he wanted to do, he said just walk around the city for a bit. At first, I thought, walk around the city? Why? What for? I often think about walking around the city as a pain, something I have to do in between other activities. Getting from my house to school. Getting from school to a park. Getting from a park to a museum, etc… In fact, I couldn’t remember the last time that I had just walked around just to walk around. As we walked and talked, I started to look at buildings that I pass regularly, buildings that I see almost everyday, and really appreciate them. It’s easy, especially in a big city, to slip into “tunnel vision” (just look at EVERYONE in New York). Everybody’s talking on their cell phone, living their lives, getting from place to place, each person in their own universe. It felt so good to just walk and chat and look around. The buildings here are incredible. There are so many amazing things to see and appreciate. I realized how jaded I had become to this spectacular city, in only 3 plus months! Not that I was/am bored (on the contrary, I’m loving it here more and more), but just that I had slipped into my own “tunnel vision” when I walked around. I’ve made it my goal to do more exploring, both of new neighborhoods and my own, and really look at and appreciate the beauty that Buenos Aires has to offer.
I think that this is the “travel mindset” that DeBotton was talking about. When we travel, we take in so much more than in our day-to-day lives and we appreciate things that we might otherwise pass over. In many ways, the travel mindset is a way of “stopping and smelling the flowers,” and I believe that’s something that we could all use more of.
On the corner of my street there is the constant presence of the flower man. One of the most interesting characters I have encountered in my travels, el vendedor de flores, brightens up my day every time I turn the corner to head towards my apartment. Standing at about 5 foot 2, this 70-year-old man has as more energy then most kids I go to school with. He is always bouncing around the streets offering deals on Jasmines, parading roses in the faces of beautiful portena women, or simply cracking jokes at the other random people who come upon his territory.
This man simply owns the corner of Vicente Lopez y Pueyrredon. He has a little shack that he says has been there for over 15 years. A couple of days ago I finally decided that my place needed a little vegetation so I decided to check out his wears. Now at first he did his usually song and dance routine displaying different types of roses and his seemingly favorite flower-daises. He rubs his ever-present five o clock shadow and takes long intense inhalations of the flowers, proving their perfumed worth. In jumbled Spanish I tell him I’m looking for something a little more special, a type of flower that he doesn’t offer to any regular person meandering by his stand during the day. All of sudden he does a hop, skip and a twirl, dashes a smile with a hint of realization and procures the most random looking cactus I’ve ever witnessed in my life.
Its almost as if he saw through to the center of my jumbled thoughts; immediately I knew this cactus was for me. In truth, I probably didn’t need any plant in my apartment but constantly seeing him on the corner slowly drove me to support his operation. The guy is an ancient, mythical flower sales man, but the strangest aspect about him is that his legs are two different sizes. Instead of letting this disability negatively affect his existence, a special show was built for him that stand almost a foot taller than his other show. Now I thought snapping a photo of the mega show would be rude, so I’m currently plotting to take a photo under the veil of secrecy. Even with his handicap, you’ve never seen someone with a more enduring smile. They guy bombs and weaves between traffic, running up to car windows and persuading them with his old man charm. He may lead the life of a simple flower salesman, but he enjoys every moment of his time on this earth, at least from what I’ve seen. Unfortunately not many other people in Buenos Aires share his enthusiasm for life, but maybe if they bought more of his flowers, a little bit of his positive energy could rub off on them. (Picture and Name of Flower Man soon to come).