Saturday, April 3, 2010

Day 90: Ultima dia

Tomorrow, I get on my plane and I return home after three months of living in Argentina. My mom asked me today to tell my host family thank you, for taking such good care of me during my time abroad. I told my mom that I would tell them at dinner tonight... and even better, I will tell them in Spanish.

Even though I am terribly sad about leaving, the best part about right now: I know that my three months in Bariloche have been a success. I have learned Spanish, let another culture and its people influence my life, and I would like to think I have done the same for them.

With that, I can leave Argentina happy.

This adventure maybe ending, but another one begins. See you on the flip side... nos vemos.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Day 88: Desayuno Americano

Mission American Breakfast
I remember when I first arrived in Argentina. January 3, 2010. I had no clue what waited for me. I have always enjoyed imagining things and usually can draw a moment in time. Even if it is a made up painting of black scribbles and circles... I can see something. But before Bariloche, I saw nothing.

Three months later, every single line has been filled in with reds, blues, pinks, yellows, oranges, purples and greens. Last night, I continued coloring in my painting with food in every shade variation in a presentation of traditional Desayuno Americano.

The American Breakfast. In the states, eating breakfast is an emphasis. In Argentina, most people only believe in Mate. Or pan con mas pan. Y mas pan. With a little bit of jam. Waffles, pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, gravy, biscuits... none of that exists here.

Until today.

I cooked for five people. I cooked for my family. It was the first time I had ever cooked for more than 2 people (me and someone else). The menu-- pancakes with honey and jam, scrambled eggs with veggie stir fry (zuchinni, mushrooms, and red and green bell peppers), and fried sausage. ALL covered in tabasco.
Objective one-- the grocery shopping.
I had my list of ingredients. Walking through aisle five, I began chuckling and talking to myself. The top item on my list: Bisquick. I do not know why I thought Argentina would have Bisquick. Cause I know how to make pancakes from scratch...

I feel I must mention again my inability to cook. I never helped cooking growing up because I never wanted to help cooking growing up. But I had told my house mom that we were having American breakfast... and that meant with or without the help of Bisquick.

I decided that flour, eggs, vanilla, sugar, vegetable oil and milk sounded like a good Argentinean version of Biskquick. I called my mother when I returned home to make sure I was cooking the sausage right for the maximun amount of bottom woods, country grease as possible. (I mean it when I say I haven´t cooked much before). I had to get the food right. And being the southern girl that I am, that meant making it taste like home home. Georgia.
Objective two-- the cooking part.
With my hair pushed back in a black bow, I cut, fried, stirred, sifted, cracked, whipped, flipped, poured and watched my food expand into a meal of colors, flavors and aromas. I experienced the kind of happiness that my mother always talks about during those 40 minutes in the smoke filled kitchen. I was cooking for others and I liked the feeling of cooking for others when I knew they were going to enjoy it.
Objective three-- praying it tastes like food.
I could read my family´s uneasy eyes when they witnessed the traditional desayuno Americano sitting on the dinning room table. For dinner. My host mom told me to go first and she would follow. I spread raspberry jam over two fluffy pancakes and topped them with honey (syrup does not exist here). I covered my scrambled eggs in veggie stir fry and tabasco sause. I did not have to demonstrate how to eat the sausage...

Twenty minutes later, all the bowls and plates sat empty. Every crumb devoured. Every morsel enjoyed to its finest. My host mom is now addicted to pancakes and sausage. My host dad even went back for seconds on the veggies (and he does not like veggies). Molly and I gave them the tabasco as a gift. Because hot sauces in Argentina are impossible to find.
Objective four-- lista.
Last night, I finished my painting of Bariloche with tabasco sause and the image of my host family fanning their burning tongues. I am now content with coming back home. Estoy lista. Being able to share a little bit more of my life with them completes the grand adventures of Meg in Bariloche.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Day 84: La gente

I mentioned yesterday what it is I respect so much in the Latin American culture... the customs, the language... the people.

La gente.
The people.

The people of Argentina is where I would like to start. I have met a lot of nice people in my days abroad. I have also met plenty of pin heads... but what I can say about Argentina is their generosity is overwhelming.

Por ejemplo: Molly and I had a grand adventure in attempt of climbing Tronador a week ago. The adventure ended with us never making it to the camping grounds on top of the mountain, but back at a hosteria on the bottom of the mountain.

The point of the story is not the adventure though, but the people. We arrived covered in dirt and mud dripping from our fingers and plastered to our shoes. They untied our shoes, taking them off our feet, the moment we walked inside. Instantly telling us they would clean them. My kicks have not been that clean since the day I bought them.

Next-- our extra `dry clothes´ were soaked. We had no shoes, no clothes. Nothing to wear for dinner. We were tired, cold, tired... and naked.

But without even asking, the people working the hosteria went and got us clothes. Their own clothes. Shoes, tops, pants, sweaters. They even said we could wear them until we left the next day at five. They took our wet clothes and hung them up to dry for us so they would be ready the next day.


My first host mom told me that the people of Bariloche are always wanting the chip in when and where they can to help make Bariloche great. Por ejemplo: many locals rent out their homes to tourists during peak season in Bariloche. The owner then serves as a land lord, finds somewhere else to stay (anywhere from one week to three months), while maintaining the house during the visitor´s duration.

The people want to help however they can... another example is my host family, and so many host families in Bariloche. They open up their homes and lives to complete strangers for sometimes months at a time. Sure, they receive money, but they enjoy caring and providing for others. They have only the best interest in you merely five minutes after meeting you.

La gente.
The people.

I will miss the people of Bariloche. The people that have become my family and friends over the past three months. My host mom and dad. My profesoras... all women... who have all been my mom one day or another. Not to mention, all my friends, who have shaped me into something new.

Twelve weeks in... one to go...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Day 83: Ahora

When you find yourself not writing, it is because you are too busy living. Too busy learning. At day 83, I am far from being a tourist in Bariloche. I am half Argentinean and I am beginning to start reflecting on my time spent in South America.

I am reflecting on where I am right now. Ahora.

Many of you know that I came to Argentine because I won a Rotary Scholarship. But my professor asked me yesterday not only WHY I picked Bariloche, but WHY Spanish?

It really is simple: I respect everything about the Latin American culture and I do so because of my hometown. Yes. Dalton.

For so many, Dalton is a town of carpet mills. Don't get me wrong, it is full of carpet, but what I have always seen is the diversity of people. The Hispanic population in Dalton is the reason why I love the Spanish culture. People. Customs. Food. Lifestyle. The language. Everything.

I would consider myself lucky to have experienced so much diversity growing up. I have never told my mom this, but if I did not grow up in the church that I did (St. Joseph's Catholic Church), then I may not have had the chance to learn about the Hispanic culture like I have. Thanks Mom.

Where I am right now is reflecting on how this diversity that I experienced can be spread amongst others in Dalton. Because sadly, not everyone in Dalton appreciates the learning and culture differences that the people in Dalton have to offer.

This honesty that I expressed to my teacher is where she became very interested.
There are two types of people in the world:

1) People who do not want to change their personal views but appreciate others, and 2) people who don't want to change, but also do not want to accept or learn more about others.

This is what I see in a lot of Dalton. Sadly.

But my time in Bariloche has changed me and I want to give Dalton another chance to change me too. I want to give it another opportunity. There is so much I can learn and I hope that I can get others to feel the same about the amazing culture and learning opportunities that Dalton has to offer. Not merely textile. :-)

The best part about this conversation yesterday, is it was all in spanish. A moment of victory. My roommate and I talked yesterday about how the progress of Spanish hits you one day. For example: you can pass along people on the street and understand what they are saying; or in a cafe or restaurant you have to start blocking out other people's Spanish conversations; in class, you can actually understand ALL the jokes; and the best-- you begin making your own puns in Spanish that everyone also understands. PLUS, you can talk to all the locals in their shops while looking for gifts.

All of these make me feel accomplished. Yes.

With only 8 days left in Argentina, I am beginning to sort and shuffle all my belongings. Mentally getting ready for my new excursions that wait for me when I get home.

Which for the first time, in a long time-- I am excited about coming home to Dalton. Excited about living back home in the place where my love for the Hispanic culture first began.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Day 72: El Bolson

El Bolson. The bowl. I ventured two hours north of Bariloche to the hippie town of El Bolson for the weekend. The valley encircled by mountains is known for its large outdoor market and the homemade beers. I am happy to say I took part in both.

The outdoor tienda takes place every Tuesday and Saturday. There are over 300 booths of handmade pants, shirts, bracelets, necklaces, rings, purses, kitchen utensils, mate cups, earrings, paintings, drawings, scarves... empanadas, sandwiches, beer, waffles, raspberries, strawberries... too many goods to count. In a half moon surrounding a beautiful park, with a lake in the middle of it, these shops were enough fun for over half of the afternoon. Not to mention, the sky beamed blue.

I stayed in a hostel. El Pueblito. For those who are not familiar with a hostel, a hostel is (sadly) a fab that has not caught on the ole EEUU. A hostel is a place where traditionally large rooms are occupied with rows of bunks. People have a locker and a bed, along with a community bathroom, kitchen and living space including plenty of free community fun.

Plus they are cheap. Though, remember to bring your ear plugs because there is always someone snoring. El Pueblito nestled itself along the river and amongst the mountains 10 minutes out of town. Five hammocks hung around the back side of the house, along with an outside bar and picnic table.

I could not have imaged a more tranquil place for a weekend getaway. Not only were the facilities nice (I got a hot shower both days! ha!), but I met some amazing people who all have this problem with keeping their feet on the ground and their minds out of the clouds... :-)

BUT! The BEST part... I mean the BEST part: the stars. Their twinkling light put me into a different world. Before I even arrived in Bariloche, people asked me if I was excited about my trip. I always replied with a yes, and besides school and the culture, I was excited about the stars.

I lost myself for over two hours that Saturday night in the stars. The giant charcoal lit sky put on a show of the Milky Way and all of its gases, and so many constellations, I could not even begin to name them or find them, for that matter of fact.

Stars put my life into perspective. There is so much out there to live and explore. It also blows my mind that no matter where I am, the stars remain constant and the people that I love will be looking up at the same sky.


Back home in Bariloche, I am day two into advanced classes. Alone. I passed my avanzado exam this past week. It truly is a moment of accomplishment. Something even more exciting-- two weeks ago, the idea of having class alone scared me. Now, I am confident and very happy with having class sola. I am with a professor that I feel comfortable with. I can successfully talk to for four hours. :-) BIG smile. BIG BIG smile.


I have 20 days left in Bariloche. WOWOWOW! Time is going. This weekend, I am going to Chile for Mt. Tronador. It is the last big thing I want to do before I head back home. Chugging right along with my Molly, we continue our grand adventures in Patagonia.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Day 63: las hijas

My sister and I are sad today.
Molly and I are sad.
We went at 9:30 a.m. to say good-bye to our other sister, Claire.

Saying good-bye is always the same.
Regardless of what continent you are on.
Regardless of how ready you think you are for that person to leave.
Regardless of how many times you say good-bye, it never gets easier.

LUCKILY... I have no doubt that I will see Ms. Claire again... maybe I will go help her 'sling' a few weddings this summer in Boulder, CO... who knows :-)


The daughters.
Las hijas.
The sisters.
Las hermanas.
For the next four weeks, Molly and I are gonna have grand adventures.
Today, we are recharging our batteries.
while vegging out to some American television.
Con Spanish subtitles, of course.


I am officially addicted to tea.
I drink it at least six times a day.
I bought dough tortilla shells, cheese and tomatoes, and made crispy unfolded empanadas.
The hottest part:
I found hot sauce.

I have yet to mention the lack of hot foods in Bariloche.
There is one place called the "Map Room" that actually has Tabasco from New Orleans, but besides that... no hot sauce.
Until TODAY :-)

So with a lot of tomatoes, queso and a gallon of extra picante,
Molly and I are nursing our lose of Claire with fire tongues.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day 61 y 62: dos meses y una dia

Day 61:
Two months in.
One month to go.

Where time has gone, I can not explain.

I have been wanting to write on my blog for days. With my computer still dead it is hard to find the time and moment to write. Especially a moment alone to think. Funny now, I have this moment and I am stuck on where to begin.

I feel as though Mendoza was ages ago. When in reality, I returned this past week. Mendoza is a place with a different tune. Vineyards line streets for miles. Tall and short trees limber their trunks from the uvas. I am still puzzled at how they do not fall over.

My favorite part about Mendoza is how every vineyard created its own atmosphere. They all had uvas, but they all had a different vibe. Different levels and variations of flavors. Different techniques and time frames for fermentation and storing.

My favorite: Melipal. Not only did I greatly enjoy their wines, the five course lunch (six with the dessert) along with a wine that coordinated with every dish (including the dessert), but I wanted to capture the essence of its scenery into a bottle.

In the end... the best and worst part about Mendoza is that I could see myself living there. Too.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Back home in Bariloche, life is continuing. I have had a new roommate move in. She is Canadian and used to speed skate before she had hip problems two years ago. I told here that she is the first speed skater I have ever met. Not to mention the first Canadian I have ever lived with.

She fits perfectly into "the family." Which sadly is getting smaller and smaller. Claire leaves for the states on Sunday. I am really gonna miss her. When someone who you have spent so much time with leaves, you also start thinking about home. That beyond the blue lake of Bariloche lies the something else. The real world.

Day 62:
I am feeling much better today as I am writing. Yesterday, I was not in the best of moods. I found myself home and people sick for the first time EVER in my travels. Odd! I know. But after talking with everyone and anyone who would listen to me (THANK YOU BY THE WAY!), I am back to my crazy, Meg self :)

NOW... for a FANTASTIC Argentinean moment:

The Local Watering Hole

My host dad told me that if the autumn wind has not blown into Bariloche by the end of February, then the whole month of March should be Hot, HOt, HOT!

My host dad has climate-telling powers. The weather in Bariloche has been consecutively 90 degrees for the past week and a half. For the record, 90 degrees is hot to begin with, but 90 degrees is even HOTTER when you do not have AC or fans.

To the local watering hole. A pool that sits right on the lake. The vista is lovely. All the gals were thrilled for a summer dip that would last longer than 35 seconds, as the pool water does not freeze your core like the lake agua.

The four of us (Claire, Molly, Michele and I) explored this local hot spot. Imagine: four ladies, in bathing suits, displaying very white skin and signs on our foreheads that screamed: Foreigners.

The four of us dangled our feet into the olympic size pool times two. I began noticing boys. Teenage boys. Teenage Argentinean boys. With smirks in their eyes and brains twisting for some trouble.

I looked around and noticed that these boys were experts with the ladies of foreign lands. There were eight of them. Slowly and smoothly, they separated themselves. I splashed a silent laugh and grin across my face, as I told the gals to get ready for an attack.

Three minutes later, all eight of the boys jumped in...

I threw off my sunglasses and did a canon ball on top of four of them. The other gals continued laughing. We laughed so long and loud, the whole pool starred at us. The life guards even came over to make sure no one was hurt. As i splashed and laughed in the water with these boys all I could think about is feeling at home, in an odd, Argentinean, welcome to our pool, kind of way :)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Ohhhh how I love it here.

Enjoy my last month in Argentina :) xoxo