So, here I am. I’ve been in Argentina one day shy of a month and it has taken me this long to purchase an adapter for my computer charger (I brought the wrong outlet adapter that was also labeled South America, but like Europe, one type does not suffice for the entire continent). ANYWAY, I am here in Mendoza and today is the third day of classes for me at la Universidad de Congreso. I have been taking a Spanish class with my program, IFSA-Butler for the last two weeks, but the Argentinian universities start this week and the next since it now the beginning of fall here.
This is the time where I embark on a great adventure, queue “I’m on top of the world” by Imagine Dragons. I have been dreaming of doing a semester abroad ever since my early years of high school, inspired by my globetrotting older sister, Meredith, with her adventures to Egypt and China. I chose to study in Mendoza, Argentina around this time last year. I wanted a place that was smaller, so I could focus on immersion and a have a more traditional city, less metropolitan.
I started my travels early on Wednesday the 17th of February with a bit of a snafu of the original plans. I made the decision to take the Rochester shuttle to MSP and start my independent travel a few hours early. After some phone calls to various family and friends I boarded a completely full flight to Atlanta. I had my last legit chips and salsa in the U.S. (as I have heard they are still trying to figure out how to make them edible here in Argentina) and before I knew it I was shoved into a very uncomfortable 747 bound to South America.
I had the luck to be seated next a middle-aged woman named Nicole, and I swear she was the closest thing to a saint for many reasons to follow. A little bit about Nicole: she lived abroad for almost her whole life, as her dad worked in the oil business. She was traveling to Argentina, Bariloche in particular, to visit her parents for five weeks. She has had different jobs here and there and doesn’t like to be tied down. She gave me a load of advice as we talked for nearly two hours at the beginning of our flight. I acquired important knowledge about the Do’s, Don’ts, and Must-sees in Argentina. Upon our arrival at Ezeiza International Airport she helped me catch a bus into the city and gave her final bit of advice. I don’t know if I will ever see her again, but I honestly was so lucky to have met this selfless woman.
When I booked my flight back in November I decided that I wanted to give myself a week to see Buenos Aires before my program started. I stayed at Hostel Suites Palermo, a nicer part of the city with lots of places to eat, nightlife and plenty of young people. I ended up making friends with a handful of international travelers! We eventually called ourselves the Gringo Squad. One girl in our group was a very sweet, very kind Argentine, Paula, from the northern part of the country. My first night that I stayed in the hostel Paula taught us all about yerba mate and the ritual behind it. Mate is like a loose leaf tea that is usually shared in a circle with you friends, or anyone really, and it facilitates conversation with the whole group—no phones or music allowed! This is how I got to know my fellow travelers, too. I’ll make sure to write a blog post about mate sometime.
The Gringo Squad had quite of bit of the world covered: Peru, Argentina, New Zealand, France, Finland and me (USA). Throughout my week in BA I visited the Recoleta Cemetery, mechanical flower, Parque Italia, San Telmo, the list could go on. One day in particular was wonderful. We went to drop off our friend, Vero, off at the airport in Puerto Madero and decided to have asado afterwards. The steak and roasted vegetables were wonderful; even the cheapest bottle of Malbec wine tasted fantastic. After lunch we were full of meat and felt as if we could pass out any minute from our food coma. We waddled to a park right across the street where there happened to be a free music festival. We decided to sit down, relax, and wait out our food babies.
Towards the end of my stay in Buenos Aires I grew more confident with the public transportation. Things like which taxis to take, asking for a flat rate, and using the Subte (Subway). The subway was a big accomplishment for me. I know that whenever I decide to go back to BA, I will be able to navigate quite well, even by foot since we did so much walking while there. BUT, I will never forget my first night in the city. (This is a great Segway…) I was with a Kiwi, Cam, and another traveler from Germany, Julia. Julia had local friends from earlier trips and we were invited to a Jazz bar to swing dance and have some drinks. We asked the hostel staff what bus was best to take to get to Avenida de Rivadavia since it was rather far. Turns out he gave us the incorrect bus number and we ended up in a very sketchy, poorly lit, absolutely no-one-on-the-street area of town. We asked the bus driver multiple times if the bus would take us to where we were hoping, he said yes—one thing that I learned here is that when bus drives say yes to something like that, it could take an hour+ to actually ARRIVE at to your destination if it is not the direct route initially. Uff da. We got off the bus to try and find the nearest stop to go back where we came from. And then it started to downpour. Three gringos running in the pouring rain. This is when I thought to myself: This is where it all ends. I am going to get mugged on my first night traveling alone in a foreign country. We are never going to make it back to the hostel. All hope is lost. Bleak, I know, but this moment only lasted for about a minute. We would be okay…? Long story short, a taxi driver took us to a stop for free because he knew we were NOT from here and told us which bus to take back. We got to Señor Duncan’s bar half past midnight.
The night was exponentially better once Cam and I put in an order for Neapolitan pizza and ordered a bottle of red wine. Later I showed Cam how to swing dance while Julia was dancing with her friends. Not long after I got asked to dance buy a local, and it was so fun! My first night I got back to the hostel around 4 a.m. which is considered turning in “early” if you are going out in Argentina. I did a lot in just my first day: airport, mate, jazz club.
Sorry for the tangent. I don’t always like to write chronologically. You should see my notes from class. A rather organized college student would have a heart attack if they saw them, I am sure. Also, please forgive me if I seem to be rambling in my writing. I haven’t written for a public audience since my high school journalism class. I do have many more stories about my first month in Argentina and just Buenos Aires alone. I am positive that I will bring them up at some point within the next five months. I do keep a personal journal with me at all times and am constantly writing.
I just want to take a moment to thank my ever-so supportive family for giving me the opportunity to “run away” for six months. I miss them so much already. My amazing friends and family made it hard to leave MN, but they will all be there when I return. Thanks for reading my first of many posts. I hope to update before Easter weekend!
Much Love, K
Shout out to my Gringo Squad: Mel, Vilma, Mark, Vero, Paula, Dan, Cam, Alonso. Miss you all!