Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ya hace un mes

Hello to all my lovely readers (if you're still reading this). It has been about a month since I returned from Buenos Aires and the transition has not been easy. I can't imagine it would be easy for anyone experiencing a culture show and I, particularly, am no good at transitioning. In a way I feel like I'm living this double existence, partly trying to be present here in Chicago and part of me wondering how life is continuing over there. I keep having these dreams about being back there, or secretly having never left. A large part of me was ready to return, and yet there are certain things I got very attached to; things and people I took for granted and very much miss now that I am back.

For one, I miss Spanish!! Last night I put on the radio to the Mexican station (even though I don't really like that kind of music) just to hear the commercials and feel more "at home."

Fortunately, I managed to find Fernet, the local drink, at Binny's liquor store, so, at least, I can get a little of Argentina on my palate. However, there just isn't the cafe scene here like there is there (in a non-pretentious sort of way). I'd have to walk about fifteen minutes to get to a cafe; over there, I'd have at least five options on my block.

Life is quieter and obligations are minimal. Sitting in the backyard is so peaceful and relaxing, and yet living downtown in a big city gives the feeling of being closer to humanity. I've been working very hard trying to write as much as I can, but it's hard at a distance; trying to find the words for things I can't see out my window, and in a language different than the land it's describing.

There is this overwhelming feeling of being hurt by Buenos Aires, matured or over-ripened. There is so much I have seen and felt that is impossible to undo. I wouldn't want to, but feel lost as to where these kind of experiences fit into my life here. In a way, I feel like I've fallen in love with my captor: stranger who has taken me away from all that is familiar, stranger who has made me feel disoriented and alone, why can't I stop thinking about you? This morning I was sitting in my backyard reading a wonderful poetry book by Cesar Vallejo, a Peruvian poet. What's wonderful about this book is that there is the Spanish version on the left side page and the English translation on the right. Anyways, a few lines of one poem really stood out to me....

Doblo el cabo carnal y juego a copas/
Donde acaban en moscas los destinos/
Donde comí y bebí de lo que me hunde.

I round the carnal cape and bet on hearts/
where destinies end up in flies,/
where I ate and drank from that which drags me under.

Saludos a todos

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Separation Issues

Hi! Surprised to here from me? Though I'm back in the states, I still have un montón (a ton, a heap) of photos and stories to share so I'll try to continue noting things in here from time to time. For now, here are some photos from my last few days down sooouttth.

Dar afección a distancia es como enamorarse con el agua;
Ondas se acercan al piel cuando la guardia esta baja.
La partida te alcanza
como el oso al salmon,
dientes finos y listos,
justo cuando el pez trata de nadar hacia atrá
con toda su fuerza.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Welcome to Atlanta

Saw a TV ad for the Oprah Winfrey Show upon arriving to the airport.
((Sigh)) Hello, U.S. of A.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Loca Loca Loca

The last couple of days have been a little nuts, between finals and trying to take advantage of all the things to do here before I leave and packing and moving yadda yadda yoda yoda....

Anyways, let me back up to some fun stuff....
Wednesday and Thursday I spent all day studying. I had an essay to turn in by midnight on Thursday, so I stayed in until then. Afterwards, my friend Fernando came over, we had a few beers, and then went out to this neat bar called Fran
ks. (See picture below)

So you get there, and you automatically feel like you must be in the wrong place. For one thing, it's not in a very chic neighborhood at ALL; mostly kind of lower-income residential. There are these big black doors and a little sign that says "Franks" with the address. The doors are locked and there's no bouncer, only a doorbell. We rang the bell, and the door opened, though we didn't see anyone open it. The door opens, and all there is is this narrow dark passageway, with a lit up old-school pay telephone booth at the end. In uppercase letters, it read TELEPHONE at the top. Fernando, his friend and I all squeezed in to this little booth, and I dialed a number (which of course I knew because I'm a cool cat). Then, we waited for something to happen. I was leaning against one of the walls inside the booth, and all of the sudden it pushed open and we entered this speakeasy-style bar: all of the furniture, the decorations, and even the suits of the barmen are 1920s style.

There, I met up with some other friends and the drinks were REALLY strong (beyond tasteful) and so we decided to go dancing (obviously). The best thing to do on Thursdays is go to Niceto, which on Thursdays is called Club 69: ie: awesome drag show meets 90s rave club. It was really cool. At one point these huge red balloons fell from the ceiling and then there were these cool green lasers all around that made you feel like you were a thief in a museum. I took a bunch of pictures but I'm a little short on time so I'll just put one for now.

Let me tell you, that man was a whole lotta woman.... I think I got home around 5.

On Friday I was woken up by Cody at noon to get together to study. We went to Palermo to study and got there at around 4. We picked this nice ice cream place with a pretty terrace and I was soooo ready to get going with my politics paper: I had my laptop, a big cup of ice cream, and....... a pigeon took a huge crap on my arm (which is a fairly good metaphor for finals week). After Cody was done laughing-til-she-cried at me, we got back to homework, and worked on our papers until midnight when they were due. Then, I threw away my books and we went OUUTTTTT. Details aren't exceptionally important. Got home around 5 or 6 this morning as well.

I woke up at 8 the next morning, because my roommate told me that our apartment slipped us a note that we had to be out by 10am. I hadn't started packing. They fortunately let us stay until noon, when they kindly asked us to leave.... I brought my stuff to Cody's house, but couldn't sleep there because it's a homestay. I decided to wing it until about 6.30 the next morning. I'll get to that in a minute. During the day, Cody, Nacho (from boxing class) and I went out shopping in Palermo and then to get waffles covered in dulce de leche. Dulce de Leche is incredible but uh.... they don't know waffles. (Still good though) Nacho went to work, Cody and I shopped around a bit more, got pizza, and then she and I napped at her place for a while. At about 12.30 that night, we went to El Centro to a bar to meet up with about 7 dudes from the boxing gym. I nearly didn't go because I was pretty tired from the past 2 nights of going out, but it was definitely worth it. When we all went to "cheers" each other (brindir), someone asked, "What should we cheers to?" and then someone yelled,

and we all yelled,


Oh, Argentina....
At who-knows-when-o'clock we decided to go to some techno club (in a basement with no name above the door). It was pretty funny to see a bunch of dudes who do Thai Boxing after drinking..... It also involved me trying to give the biggest guy in a group a piggy-back ride. I don't want to talk about it.
The club was also a real good time. Cody and I left at about 6 but I didn't have anywhere to sleep....

I texted my friend Javi, who said I could stay on his couch. When I got there we was watching Madagascar with a friend so we watched that until about 7 in the morning and then I fell asleep.

Sunday- to put it briefly- consisted of waking up late; book fair, concert in the park, and going to the movies with Javi; and me crashing at about 2 in the morning in the middle of some movie with Sean Penn at Javi's apartment.

I woke up at 11 today and met up with Cody.... she still had a paper to do on comparing art pieces so I went to a cafe with her and helped her with it a bit. She and I and Nacho went walking around taking pictures until about 3.30 that afternoon, when we looked at the time and realized that Cody had to leave for the airport. We went to her house and she grabbed her stuff and I grabbed my stuff and she got a cab to the airport and I got a cab back to Javi's house (he said I could stay with him until I leave which is super nice!).

I came to this cafe a while ago to relax a bit, though I still feel kind of discombobulated. (Is that how you spell that?) All of my friends from the program have officially left. On Friday night Cody and I went to the bar I used to work at, Wherever, so I officially said goodbye to all of them, as well as various other friends. Anyways, I'm off to San Telmo to meet up with my old roommate from Caballito. The last time I went to that cafe I had a Basil Daquiri and it was the bomb.

Right now at the cafe they're playing "Calle 13" so I'll leave you all with one of their music videos:

I leave Wednesday, we'll see if I have a chance to blog again before the big flight.
Over and out!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Brain Stew

I've been really bad at blogging lately. I've had so much homework and finals and studying and stress thinking about leaving and arriving and what to look forward to and what I'll be missing and what I have to do and who I want to see and I pulled a muscle in my right (dominant) hand and etc. etc. that I have completely fried with stress. Even if the assignments aren't that hard, I feel myself struggling to even achieve low-level brain activity. Politics is the worst. The assignments would be hard even if I was at my maximum capability. Discuss the 1982 debt crisis, how it began, and how the countries in Latin America were effected. Let me translate: MELISSA, THE WORLD HATES YOU. Just kidding... but it really does suck, though. There should be a law that art majors are exempt from anything economics-related. That'll be first on my agenda once I become ruler of the world: government without politics. (You picking up on the low-level brain activity?)

To further prove my point, I haven't even been able to make lists, which is normally one of my favorite past times. How do I plan who gets to fit in my schedule and who doesn't? Who I may very possibly never see again? Meanwhile, I'm trying to walk around the city with my eyes wide open, trying to take everything in. The problem is that living directly in the downtown of a big city is already sensory overload and emotionally-triggered hyper-awareness is proving overwhelming, to say to least.

My biggest "dilemma"- I suppose you could say- would be my crippling yearning for closure. Worst yet is that I feel entitled to it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

At a Distance

It's frustrating to think that returning to the states will mean such systematic monotony. Whether it's true, or every day ACTUALLY is what you make it- disregarding the northamerican workoholic manifesto- I still feel this pressure to take advantage of being here. Yet, I'm so close to the end that investing myself fully is tricky: it's this weird dynamic of trying to be present in the moment and fully comprehending that the departure is near.

I've been "seeing" this fellow for a bit here, whatever that means. He speaks using a more .... er.... complex vernacular. I never understand him entirely, but it never seems to matter. Breaking the stubborn language barrier is truly a remarkable thing. We speak a lot in "what ifs" so I get to practice the conditional and subjunctive tenses plenty. What if things were different? What if we had met each other earlier? Equally, there's something dreamy and unreal about starting a relationship that- from the beginning- is known to have no future. Who knows, perhaps the foundation of our connection is a mutual romanticism of the impossible. Is all affection based on some sort of disillusionment? He sends me poetry and kisses my neck when I'm not looking. I buy into less that I understand. As much as I try to trust these gestures as genuine, which they very well could be, the end is so near.... I feel sooo timeworn and burned that perhaps "the dream" can never become the reality; like parallel lines that go on forever but can never touch.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Total Eclipse of the Goon

Last night in a (semi-frantic) search on the world-wide-web to find cool things to do before I leave Buenos Aires, I came across an interesting page. Keep in mind this is about 1:30 in the morning. TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE HAPPENING FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 22 MONTHS! COME SEE IT AT THE PLANETARIUM IN PALERMO!! Holy smokes, I thought, and set my alarm clock for 4:00 this morning (the total eclipse would happen at 4:41). When I woke up, however, I had a strange feeling that something was wrong. I googled the page again. Turns out this event had already passed in December of 2010. I was so excited I didn't bother to correctly verify the date. Unfortunately a friend of mine bothered to get up, too, thanks to trusting my word about this non-existent event. I told her through text about 30 minutes ago that it wasn't happening because it's too cloudy. Whoops! I'll tell her the truth tomorrow in class....

Anyways, seeing as I'm already awake, I may as well do a little update.

1) Failed at the blogpost everyday thing. It's hard! Oh well, I'm already over it....
2) Thursday night I went out for drinks with this nice musician dude I met randomly. He was really nice but the downside was he thought it was a date and I clearly had not been given the memo. How many times must I remind myself that men and women simply cannot be friends in this country? Or maybe my gorrilla mask would help for any time I leave the house.....?
3) On Friday we went on a class day trip to San Antonio de Areco, about 2 hours outside the city. To sum up the bus ride briefly, it consisted of a lot of singing with a Minnesotan accent. "Baby Got Back" has never sounded so good,
donchaknow? Anyways, here are some pictures from this incredibly beautiful estancia....

This is where we ate lunch

Being sung old folklore by an old gaucho (Whatta mustache!)

This is Pablo the horse whisperer. He made a horse lie on its back and made every girl (and several boys) from my program fall in love with him.

We all rode horses..... ate a ton of great food..... I fell asleep in a field...... fresh air! (What a treat!)
All in all, it was incredible. Everyone was really sad to leave.

4) On Saturday, first I went to do my service learning. That was the first day my helping with this boxing class for kids actually worked out. The kids were adorable. (And one of the little girls guessed I was from Spain which is all sighhhh complement.) I'll write more about this another day. Afterward, I returned home, packed up some stuff, Sarah and Tasha and I went to Retiro Station, and we took a train to Tigre.

The night before I had hauled my butt over to Olivos (after getting back to BsAs from the estancia) to pay for a cabin for one night on an island in Tigre. We took the hour-long train ride there, and got to Tigre at about 4:50 in the afternoon (the last boat out of the day leaves at 5!) Quickly, we bought a bunch of water (the tap water there is virtually undrinkable) quickly bought our boat tickets, and made it with about 3 minutes to spare. Three creative but poorly organized girls? I'm surprised we made it at all. The boat ride was about an hour and 45 minutes, which is considerably longer than the last time I stayed the night over there. The details of this beyond perfect experience and pictures..... are for another day.

It's now 6:05 in the morning and I think I can get back to sleep now. Before I go, though, let me do a quick recap of some other things....

5) Arrived back to the city on Sunday night at around 10pm, exhausted, shoe-less (I'll explain later), and happy.
6) Today wasn't too exciting: class from 11:30-6:30, some window shopping with Cody, Photoshop lesson in Spanglish with my friend, Kiosco. Got to bed early.
7) Finally no longer sore from my last boxing class. I was limping for a little bit/going up and down stairs like an old lady with hemorrhoids. I think I'll be ready for some more ass-whoopin' by the Wednesday noon class, though....

Got a calendar FULL of things to do every single night, but we'll see if energy and homework allow for it. I think this is our last week of class before finals which is SO WEIRD. I feel like I've been here forever, yet there are still quite a bit of things I want to do before I leave..... or more people I want to see, rather. I suppose all I can ask for is some sort of closure? Anyways, much love to all, and remember to always check the dates of astrological events before suggesting to friends to wake up at 4 in the morning!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What's to come

Tonight, Natasha and I made the poor decision of bringing up the idea of going home and how weird it's going to be. There are certain things one grows to accept as the norm which just ... will be gone.
To name a few....

-Barefoot children sticking their tiny hands out to you and asking for change.
-Evita Peron's face plastered everywhere
-Everything having the option of involving dulce de leche
-Eating dinner at 9
-Regularly seeing women breastfeeding in public
-The presence of tango
-Having to watch out for dog poop
-Buying fresh fruits and vegetables from the market each day
-Strikes. All of the time.
-Parties that start at 1 am and run until 8am
-Constantly being stared/whistled at (just for being female)

I feel like I'm going to return to the states and feel like a martian. Maybe I will be one. Is it supposed to be easy to go from walking down Avenida Florida - being attacked by people trying to sell you things or hand you flyers - to walking through Old Orchard shopping mall and watching preteens with their parents' credit card acting like they're entitled to something(/everything). Upon returning, stock characters will rotate: suburban soccer moms will replace señ
oras with plastic surgery addictions, tribal tattoos will stop being cool, men with long hair will be creepy. How do I prepare myself for such things?

Above all, it will be weird to stop speaking Spanish. Any conversation with any given stranger is valuable, at the very least, because I'm practicing a language. Maybe when I go back I wont want to talk to anyone because it will be too easy. I guess I'll have to wait and see...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Martes 12 de Abril

It has been difficult to stay positive lately. School and schoolwork accumulates into a dark cloud over my head despite the beautiful weather in all other parts. Sunday I slept all day and all night, only to wake up occasionally for short periods of several hours. Yesterday, however, Natasha dragged me out to La Bomba de Tiempo, an extraordinary percussion show every Monday night at the Konex in Almagro.

I had been there several times before, but this time was different. There was this incredible guest performer from Brazil named Mauricio Tizumba, and I swear if someone were to tell me that this was God in human form, I would have believed them. He's about 65, I'd guess, and with this unbelievable spirit that left us all dancing with our mouths open in awe.

It's pretty hard to describe how wonderful this moment was, so I'll get to the point. Afterward, I felt INCREDIBLE. I had been feeling so crummy and all of the sudden the world was good again. Yesterday, all day, I had been asking people, How can I do homework? How can I force myself to do something that I so badly don't want to do?! The fact is that I had been putting so much energy into NOT wanting to do the work, but energy all the same. What has been tiring me out lately is not so much the work load but the stress of having the work at all. Basically, the only way to not stress about the work is to get rid of the work; to do the work. Ugh it's so annoying when the responsible solution is also the best one. I realized from the concert that the only way I'm going to get the most out of this last month is to knock off the other junk. Otherwise, I'll feel so weighed down and bitter than I won't have the energy nor the desire to do the fun stuff. Granted, I'm blogging about responsibility while ditching politics class and drinking coffee at a cafe, but I prefer to think of this as "spiritual prioritizing." Mission: accomplished. The problem is I had been thinking about this motivation thing all wrong.... it's not about the incentive of anything physical, like a grade, but of being one thing lighter.

Okay, enough Oprah talk.

I'd like to go out tonight. Tuesdays are the best for tango dancing. Plus, I met the manager of "HYPE" night at Kika Nightclub and got a card for free entry as his "personal guest" so I should probably use that while I'm here. Also, a couple weeks back I bumped into a dude in the food court at the Galerias Pacifico mall and we started talking and he works for the Centro Cultural Borges (Borges Cultural Center) and gave me a card to see a free tango show with whoever I'd like, also as his "personal guest(s)."

As crazy as living in a big city is (and how horrified I would be to live in New York), it's really cool to see first-hand how conducive it is to networking. Since successful networking is contingent on having something to network, I can also see how inspiring it is for artists living in big cities, as well. I've met a lot of working artists here, and knowing that- should I want to return someday- doing the same is doable. Living here has definitely made me realize how many options there truly are.... how many labyrinths of possibility run through our day-to-day lives.

...but I wonder... when is opportunity an option, and when is it a responsibility?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Y aca estamos....

And all is beginning to wind down. Today officially marks one month left in Argentina. Ideally, I'd like to do one post a day until I leave, but I don't know how realistic that is. I want so badly to be present.... to experience all that I can and use the rest of this time to reflect, but school is getting in the way. I know that school is a part of this experience, but it doesn't feel like that right now. I feel like my Spanish class is making my Spanish worse.... making me second guess myself all the time, not to mention bitter about sitting in a classroom when I could be out in the city speaking Spanish with natives. The new history teacher is incredibly intelligent but lacks the teaching abilities to hold one's concentration for more than five minutes. The reading material for that and for politics are about as dry as they come. Plus, the politics class is one day a week for three hours straight, which no person should ever have to do for a subject that's not what one is majoring in. The other two classes are good/bearable, but I'm so drained by the others that I have no energy nor desire to put effort forth.

What's the point of all of this? Forcing us into knowledge? This can't possibly be with our "best intentions" at heart. One of the guys staying on the third floor from my program came up to our apartment, a ball of nerves, trying to study. I sat down with him for about 40 minutes and helped him with his Spanish, which he said was the best tutoring he's ever had. It seems like none of the teachers actually want to teach, just spit out material, pick up their pay check, and call it a day. Is it an Argentine teacher thing? I talked to the head of this program and she said that North Americans, because we pay so much at our universities, are accustomed to feeling "entitled": to outside-of-the-classroom help, to hand-holding, to catered education. Here, the public universities are free, and as such, it's not customary for the teachers to do anything outside of the basic job description. However, we ARE paying. We aren't some dumb gringos feeling that our parent's money has earned us assistance..... well, at the very least, that's not ALL we are. We're young adults who are still struggling with culture shock, with the challenges of wrapping our minds and tongues around a new language, and making sense of the histories that surround it. I never had to learn about the politics in the United States, and suddenly I have to learn about them here, about the history of the military dictatorship of the 70s and 80s and the thousands of people that went missing during that time. There is no sensitivity training, only the responsibility to concentrate, to read hundreds of pages about it, listen to teachers recount it, and regurgitate the information back out in the form of a detached, semi-informative essay.
Education system, you are even more of an ice queen that I could have ever imagined. And I support it. Fiscally, at the very least. Boycotting is counter-productive.
There is no space between noting someone's drink order and placing their glass on the table to state my position on the monopoly that is the university system, only half-genuine smiles, wiping down tables, and picking up my 2 peso tip stuck behind the bill.

Currently I'm on the Art Education track at the U of Minnesota. Whether this profession would allow me to take part in the bettering of the education system in some way or not is contingent on me participating, on getting my diploma.

So here I am, 3:23 in the morning, with a bottle of Malbec and a to-do list with a superiority complex. No matter which way I spin it, however,
the idea of watching Dead Poet's Society makes me want to slam my head into a wall, and doing the work is the only exit-plan. Still, the strength to accept the bullshit is hiding just beyond the horizon line....

Friday, April 1, 2011

Wah-ka Wah-ka

Congratulations to me are in order! I just finished 2 politics essays culminating 4000 words. I have been working on those stinkers for like 2 weeks now. Finally ready to talk about my trip up north!!

The bus ride was about 24 hours. The time was surprisingly a non-issue. I had just worked Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of that week before; the night before until about 5 in the morning. AND I fell asleep on the bus and ended up in San Telmo so I had to walk home after that. I was running rate to make my bus on Sunday at noon (surprise, surprise) and saw an advertisement from the cab window. It said "Salta awaits you," and had a beautiful picture below. Life is such a movie sometimes, I swear. I made the bus with about five minutes to spare, which is better than some of the other buses I've struggled to catch. Once I got on, I just felt incredible! I hadn't been out of the city since Tigre in January, which is a LOT of time to spend in the center of a downtown of a busy city. Here's a picture from the bus window:

It rained that whole night.
We got into the city of Salta at around 3 on Monday afternoon.
When I got there, I went to a tourist agency to ask for ideas on making a route throughout Salta. The problem was that, because it was rainy season, everything was considerably more challenging.... some not even doable because of flooding and mudslides. I decided to sleep that night in Chicoana, a quick 45-minute bus ride out of the city. It was a beautiful ride there though the country. I was smiling so dorkishly in my bus seat.

Fortunately, that week that I was there was ALL Carnaval all throughout Salta and Jujuy. This is how Chicoana looked when I arrived. It was raining. I found a hostel real quick, and went for a walk.
A walk around the neighborhood

I stumbled into a tobacco field... and just stood there, listening to the raindrops gently hit the leaves.

The sky boomed with thunder. I rolled up my pantlegs and ran out, my shoes squishing in the mud. Music came from a folklore dance nearby down the dirt road. It cost 15 pesos, but I got in for 5 ($1.20 USD) because I played the foreigner card. (I'm traveling and don't have much money....) It was already getting dark by that time. I met a lovely younger (in their 30s) couple, Felipe and Carlotta, who let me sit with them and shared some boxed wine with me. I watched them dance. Folkloric dance is so beautiful to watch. They hold their arms up in the air, and turn, and snap: it kind of reminds me of windmills. He rolled up his panuelo (hankerchief) in the air. She held hers in front of her mouth, like a mating game.

Some people were dressed up as gauchos. I asked them if it was just for Carnaval. Felipe said they always dress like that, that's its a way of keeping the traditional "Salteño" traditions alive. They even still consider themselves gauchos.

I got a tamale. The couple that was making them were actually there because they had won a local tamale-making competition. That says something, because everyone says that Salta is home of the best tamales in Argentina.

A tall, skinny man with no teeth and deep cheekbones asked me to dance. The couple I was with said it's rude to say no to a dance. (According to customs.) I said okay. Went I got to the dirt-ground dance floor, a boy came up to me and handed me a hankerchief. Fortunately I had a fair amount of cups of boxed wine, so I just watched the other people dancing and danced! It was fun. I danced a lot that night. It tired me out! Some people had their faces painted. Carnaval is supposedly the time that the devil is set loose and because of that, everyone dresses up in silly costumes and parties! It's basically the one time of year that no one works for about one or two weeks, and can just relax. What an amazing tradition, huh?

A woman got up and played a drum and sand in some indigenous language. I think it was Quechua. My eyes started to water up. It was beautiful.

It ended at 10. Before I left, an old drunk man from the town gave me a laurel of albahaca (basil), a traditional symbol of carnaval. (Or at least that of Salta.) Felipe drove me back to the hostel in this jeep with open doors. It bumped up and down on the dirt road. When I returned, a man, Daniel, had left me a message. In the guest book, everyone writes where they came from and where they're going to. Daniel saw that I was intended to go to Cachi, and he was also. He had a car, so offered to take me early in the morning. That night, I fell asleep to crickets.

We met up at about 7:30 that morning in the lobby, and stopped for a cup of coffee and medialunas before the drive. It had rained all night, so there was a chance that the path would be cut by rain. We decided to try anyway.

The flooding was unbelievable!
We drove through giant ponds and waited as cranes moved piles of dirt so cars could pass (See left side of the phone above) and we were actually feeling pretty hopeful until we got to a rest stop in El Maray, and it began to rain again. Here are some photos from the rest stop. Next to the picture taken below was an auto-repair shop, with a baby goat (5 months-old) on the roof.

The dude on the left has a big hunk of coca leaves in his cheek. Keep in mind that it's NOT like cocaine! Sucking on coca leaves is a tradition up north like drinking mate is for other parts of Argentina/Latin America. It's also used to help with altitude sickness. When you suck on them, your saliva mixed with the leaves produces a kind of juice, which also helps with dehydration. It tastes very bitter!

We ended up having to wait there for like an hour or so, hoping the rain would stop. It didn't. A big tour bus of older French couples was stuck in the little restaurant there with us. The bus driver bought me a Pepsi to accompany my delicious 2 pesos (50 cent) a piece empanadas. Daniel decided to continue waiting, but the tour bus decided to turn back around and go back to Salta the city. I didn't want to potentially stay there for the night, and since the tour bus offered to let me go back with them, I took them up on it. It was a very funny ride, considering my French is limited to "Bonjour," "Mercy," and "Toilet" (spelling?), and that the age group on the bus was probably between 50 and 80. I fit right in. It was around 2 in the afternoon at that time. One man handed me a plastic cup with straight gin. Some things just don't need a translator, huh?

We got back into Salta about an hour or hour and a half later. After dropping off the french group at a hotel, the tour/coach bus driver drove me around in that big thing to find a hostel. I found a nice one, and we split ways. The sun had finally come out, too! Here are some pictures from the hostel.

I didn't want to spend much time in Salta the city. In fact, I wanted to avoid city, even a small one, for as long as possible. I checked in to the hostel, then went over to the town square and picked up a bus to San Lorenzo. It was about 40 minutes away. Here's a picture from the bus window:

It's a fairly rich suburban town, but the line ends in a place where you can do mountain hikes or horseback riding. Before I went up I got some coca leaves for the trip. Here are some pictures from the hike:

... And I took the road not traveled by, and that made all the difference

By the time I got back down to the bottom of the mountain, it was dark. Just before a little mountain kiosk closed, I bought a big hunk of goat's cheese and a big circle of bread with pieces of sausage baked into it. I hopped on a bus, headed back to the hostel, and got to bed at about 11:30 that night.

The next morning, I woke up at 5:30 in the morning to look up hostels in Cafayate, where I was heading to that day. The streets were dark and incredible foggy! You couldn't see past the block. The bus left the station at 7. Of course, I underestimated how long it would take to walk there, and ended up having to run to the station with my big backpack and stuffed purse. I made it with about two minutes to spare. Fortunately, everything in Argentina is late. (In that way, I'm so right for this country, no?) It was about a 3 hour bus ride to Cafayate.

Right when I got off the bus, there was a lady waiting to attract people to the hostel. I went with her. I had to share the room (bunks) with about 9 other people, but it wasn't a big deal.

Wow, I've been working on this blog post for a while! I think I'm gonna come back to this later. Stay tuned... Cafayate was probably the best day of all of them!

Sending lots of love.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Hey thanks Mom and Dad for making me, I think you guys did a pretty good job!

That being said, I have about 15 minutes before I have to get ready for class so I'll see what I can fit in. Yesterday was my 21st birthday. Every year my parents ask me if I feel older. Oddly, this year I do. All the sudden, that voice in my head telling me to get back to doing my homework or stay hydrated or do my laundry..... is my own. Creepy, huh? Quick! Someone help me set up my retirement fund! No wait, I think I'll put on some Depeche Mode, instead.

I'm sorry I haven't yet written about my trip up north, minus the mini last post. It was so great. I always feel like it deserves a long amount of time to sit down and write. I will share a quick photo though....

Here's me at the "Salinas Grandes," one of the biggest salt flats in the the world (I think in Bolivia is the biggest?) outside of a mountain town called Purmamarca. It was really cool to go out into the country and imagine all the things I've read about, about Argentina when it was just developing. Also, it was incredible to go to these sleepy towns where people actually still dress like gauchos and call themselves gauchos and feel SUCH intense pride in their traditions.

Okay that's all I've got time for. Much love to all!!! Off to history!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Dying Tobacco Plants of Chicoana

That afternoon in Marzo I crept over the barbed wire
into your family reunion,
courted your veins.
Raindrops fell sleepily to its withering brother leaves below,
hand-me-downs knitted by the sky.
The impact sounded like footsteps: I waited paitently
under the heavy gray sky,
my sneakers being devoured into the mud,
mosquitos rain-dancing through my bloodstream.
How does it feel
when the hummingbirds stumble through the graveyard of your flowers,
trying to suck nectar from your empty pink carriages?
Do you mistake their slender beaks for those of vultures?
The gentle wind for bandits of your seeds?
For every plot of land, there are tongues to lick it clean.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Y Ahora, La Semana de Examenes

Made it back alive! Just got in about an hour ago to the Retiro station. Later this afternoon, I have my first final. This is cruel and unusual torture. More later. Over and out.

Friday, March 4, 2011


So I guess I'm on Spring Break now? It doesn't quite feel like it seeing as I have to work tonight and tomorrow night. The majority of kids from my program have already left (either to Machu Picchu or Patagonia) but since I can only get ONE week off of Spring Break at work- my weeks being Wednesday through Saturday- I couldn't join any of them. Thus, I am going traveling alone. This Sunday to the next Sunday doesn't leave me a TON of time, but hopefully it'll be enough to get to know more of the country. This afternoon, I bought my going and return ticket to Salta!

Salta is a province in the north of Argentina: 20 hours by bus. I've never done a trip on my own, and I'm just so excited for it. This picture up there (which I stole from google images) is one of the places I believe I'll be headed.) I have planned out the different areas I'll be going to (new place each day) but other than that I've got nothin'. I have a list of some cheap camp sites so I may do that as well. Other than that... wish me luck! I'd say it's moooost likely I won't be blogging for the next week but I'll write in my journal a lot and share later.
Hasta luego!