Last Sunday I went to Zoo Lujan with some friends. And when I say zoo, I mean “most extreme petting zoo ever.” As you can see by the pictures, baby pumas, tigers, elephants, and parrots were all available for touching and holding. They had all the normal farm animals too, but I didn’t really feel the need to get a picture of me petting a cow. It was a great day: a relaxing bus ride speaking Spanish with friends, petting exotic animals, and back in time for dinner with the family.
If you’re wondering why Jana isn’t in any of the pictures, it’s because she didn’t go. In her own words, “It’s because I’m cheap and I don’t have room in my heart for God’s furry creatures. And I’m not ashamed.”
Our homestay brother Ryan needs your help! He entered a video contest with CEA, our study abroad program. The prize is a scholarship or something of that nature, and he really wants to win it. Being the considerate and supportive sister that I am, I want him to win it, too. His video is called “Sights and Sounds of Argentina.” And it’s actually pretty good. He worked on it for a long time. Everyone should vote for Ryan! Tell your friends!
Ryan is the one on the right, standing next to Anna. (The other kid in the picture is Nico, one of our other homestay brothers. He’s great, too, but not in any video contests.)
Happy Easter from Argentina! They definitely don’t have chocolate bunnies here, but they make up for this sad deficiency with elaborate chocolate eggs that have surprises inside. These are two small examples. There were more eggs in this lovely substitution for an Easter basket, but we already ate them of course.
Jana came down with something on Saturday and therefore spent her Easter in bed. A tragic occurrence, but she is feeling well enough to go to class today so don’t worry about her. Worry about me instead, because I share a room with her and it is quite possible that I might catch her illness. I have been diligently eating my Hall’s Defense Vitamin C Drops however, so I will hopefully be okay.
My Easter was fabulous. We found a Baptist Church in Buenos Aires on the internet and lo and behold—they were having a sunrise service in a park! So our roommate Amber, a lovely girl from Colorado, and I went to Church for Easter. It was encouraging to worship in Spanish and hear a message and take communion with Argentine believers. They were super friendly and we even met a charming woman from Louisiana. We are really excited about going again next Sunday!
Thursday marked the beginning of a new and exciting adventure for me, Anna, and 40 of our closest study abroad friends. That adventure is called “Weekend Trip to Iguazu Falls.”
Our journey began in the most awesome bus ever. Actually, all the buses here are the same, but they are all great. The seats are super comfortable, and they play 80s music videos for hours on end. I had the time of my life…
After a lovely bus ride, we took a little look-see at the ruins of a Jesuit mission. That part was really hot. And I was still asleep from the dramamine.
Next was lunch. The food was probably my least favorite part of our lunch break. I had some good conversation, scored a goal or two in a game of soccer, hopped in the pool, and, best of all, had a glass of sweet tea. Oh yes. It was lovely. Cool and refreshing.
More bus riding followed, but in a normal Greyhound this time. I slept pretty much the whole way to the hotel. We grabbed some dinner at the hotel and went to sleep. At least, I did. I don’t actually know about anyone else. The next morning we woke up early, and I had cereal and milk for breakfast. That may have been the best part of the trip. I love me some frosted flakes.
Then we went to the national park to visit IGUAZU FALLS! It was super amazing. There was so much water. And butterflies! All I wanted was for one to land on me, and finally, one did! It was magical. It was even magicaler that another one and then another one landed on me! I was ecstatic, to say the least.
Sunday we visited a little Guaraní village not too far from our hotel. That part was not as exciting. The bugs in that subtropical forest were ferocious. I did not enjoy them. I did enjoy swinging on the vines with the small children. And my brothers, who are not small children.
Lunch Sunday was pretty fun. About twenty of us ate outside at a café near our hotel, and we are a funny bunch. I think we were all a little dehydrated after being in that sun for so long. All of us except for our brother Nico, that is. He drank three bottles of carbonated water with his lunch.
We flew on LAN! It was a lovely to fly with a foreign airline. They gave us a box of food! I was actually asleep for the whole flight, but they still gave me my food. There were these ham flavored crackers in the box that were delicious. It sounds nasty, but they tasted exactly like ham and biscuits from Cracker Barrel. I loved them.
And so was our weekend adventure to Iguazu Falls. It was lovely. Now, everyone needs to go vote for the falls to be one of the New Seven Wonders of the Natural World. http://www.vote7.com/n7w/overview
For our faithful readers who noticed the shocking lack of posts over the weekend, we sincerely apologize. You will forgive us, we hope, when you hear that our silence was due to an exciting weekend excursion to the beach! We, along with 14 other students in our program, planned a spontaneous trip to the seaside town of Mar del Plata to get some sun and surf before the weather becomes cold. And now, for your entertainment, here are all the reasons why our Mar del Plata experience was both fabulous and funky:
1. Argentine Bus Travel. Amazingly comfortable seats, snacks on the return trip, the bliss of being rocked to sleep by the swaying of the bus and then waking up at the beach, panoramic views because we were on the second level of the bus, and all without the hassle of airport security.
2. Bungalows. We rented two little bungalows in a campground outside of the city, with three bunkbeds and a loft with a double bed per bungalow. It wasn’t exactly luxury living (the tree growing through one corner and the mold on the pillow are two examples), but we didn’t care since it was cheap.
3. Pastry shop. Conveniently located within walking distance was a cute and cheap pastry shop that sold amazing pastries of all kinds. And if there’s anything Argentines know how to bake, it’s some delicious pastries. We were devoted customers: all 16 of us visited Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning and always bought extra pastries to have later in the day as well.
4. Stray dogs. These were definitely not a fabulous part of the trip, but we had no choice. The neighborhood was home to a large community of stray dogs that all adopted us at first sight. They were our faithful companions as we went to and from the beach and pastry shop and even blessed us by laying on our towels and scratching their filthy fleas on our stuff.
5. The beach. It was a little on the chilly side and kind of windy, but it was also almost completely void of other people. The Atlantic was super cold but that didn’t stop us from swimming at least once. It was so relaxing to be at the ocean again and the weather was perfect on Friday for a long day on the sand.
6. The port. Saturday afternoon was rather cold, so we opted to explore the city instead of freeze in our bathing suits on the beach. We discovered the lovely port of Mar del Plata and took a boat ride out into the harbor to view the city from the sea. We also encountered the ferocious lobos del mar, but Jana has claimed the right to blog about those so I will say no more!
7. Manolo’s. A fabulous restaurant whose specialty is churros and hot chocolate. Churros are wonderful, fried, donut-like, rolled-in-sugar pastries that are the closest thing we have found to Fair food so far. They serve them plain or filled with cream or chocolate…you can guess which kinds Jana and I ordered. And the hot chocolate at Manolo’s is truly hot chocolate. It tasted just like they melted a Hershey bar in a mug for us. They even included extra packets of sugar in case the chocolate wasn’t sweet enough.
8. Biker conventions. When we checked into our bungalow, we were informed that 1500 bikers would be rolling into the camp for a weekend convention. Several of our companions were quite excited about the prospect of 1500 Argentine bikers at our location but have no fear—Jana and I were equally excited about the prospect of going to bed early each night.
9. 11 am check-out times. We checked out Sunday morning by 11:00 in order to get our deposit back. The only problem was that our bus wasn’t leaving until 12:15 am, so we had 13 hours with all of our backpacks and nowhere to go. We ended up going back to the beach, though it was cold and cloudy, and we set up camp with all of our stray dogs and backpacks. It was quite a sight, but you can see the picture for yourself!
And that was our trip to Mar del Plata. Beach trips in March in Argentina=awesome!
I don’t think I got your first question. I’m not that great at the whole technology thing either. I am having a wonderful time here in Argentina. I would love to teach you to play the guitar in English, but I’ll have to teach you in Argentina!
So, the best thing about my birthday in Argentina yesterday= a letter in the mail from my grandma. How cool is that? I got a birthday card in South America for my birthday! Perfect.
The second best thing about my 21st birthday in Argentina= Chinatown peanut butter from my roomie Anna. We have a Chinatown in our barrio, and it’s one of the few places in Buenos Aires where you can find good peanut butter.
Third best thing about my birthday in Argentina= no class. Anna and I have the best class schedules EVER. No class on Thursday or Friday. Pretty much amazing.
Fourth best thing about South America birthday celebrating= frappes from Havanna with my girls Devin and Anna. In the words of Dora the Explorer, “¡Delicioso!”
Fifth best thing about turning 21 in the Rioplatense region= bowling party with the chicas. Totally a fourth grade way to celebrate (I actually did have a bowling party as a child), but still super fun at 21. And I bowled a 108, which I think is pretty impressive. Three strikes in one game. Definitely a personal record.
Numero seis= fascinating history lesson/ tour by Nahuel Mose. Hundreds of years of history in 10 minutes, and I still learned so much. Nahuel is awesome. Good personnel choice, CEA. I salute you.
Seven= chatting with the madre, abuela, and hermana on Skype. Technology is great. They only get number 7 because they had all just woken up. And when I say they had just woken up, I mean they were not completely coherent. They still looked lovely sans make-up and did hair.
8th reason my birthday was happy in Argentina= Sunshine and 80 degrees. How awesome is that? And then it got pretty cool at night, which means it was not burning up in our room at bedtime. Barbaro,
9th reason 21 in Argentina is wicked awesome= movie night with my new family. I love that I can come to South America and still have a huge family. 5 brothers and 2 sisters. Magical.
10th best thing about my Argentine birthday= sleeping late. When 11:30 am is breakfast time, you don’t have to buy lunch. And when Anna owes you money on your birthday, you don’t have to buy anything. I could get used to that.
Even though I had a great birthday in Argentina, I missed my peeps from the Southland. (I had 2 people last night ask me if I’m from the South. Crazy. Like we talk different or something. I still don’t think I have an accent.)
Behold the Universidad de Belgrano, 17 stories of academia
at it’s best. It’s really a super great building, and I think that all educational institutions should copy the pattern. It’s a great way to minimize landscaping expenses and maximize space. Better still, every classroom has fantastic windows- one wall in each classroom is completely transparent. I love it! The view from the 9th floor is great. I know because that’s where my classes were today, and the view is what I payed attention to.
My first class today was a comparative political analysis class. I don’t know what it was like because I didn’t actually attend. I did go to my second class, which I had with Anna (she keeps me responsible). We are about to drop that class like it’s hot. It sounded like way too much work. And we all know that I did not come to Argentina to work. That would be crazy.
The second class that Anna and I had today was a tango class. The class is a lecture based class that covers the historical and cultural issues that influence and affect the tango. Tomorrow we have our studio classes. We are going to learn to tango. The only drawback is that there are three boys and about twenty girls in the class. So, dad, you can stop worrying.