Sunday, January 31, 2010

Day 28: Nueva Casa

I moved in with a new family yesterday. I do not know how religious my readers are BUT every single prayer that I asked God for this past week has come true. Because I told them to no one but him.

My old family was not working out for me. The thing is, I do not think it was working for my house mom either. I went to school on Friday to meet up with my director so we could go to the doctor together. It was there that I saw one of my girlfriends who called me her roommate... I had no clue what was going on.

Evidently, I was being moved in with a new family because my old house mom is having guests arrive on Monday (tomorrow) and she didn't have room for me anymore... harsh? Maybe. But I was really excited about my move.

I still have yet to pick up my camera charger from the post office (as it has arrived) but when I do this week, I will post pictures of my new house. It is right on the lake. The vista from the living room windows is incredible. The mountains and the lake are all right here. Last night there was a full moon. I felt the brilliance of its yellow as it rose over the lake... it welcomed me to my new home.

That is something else that I already like about here-- I feel like it is home. In one day, I already feel like this is my home. I want to stay here for the next two months. I will never dread coming home now.

Last night at dinner, I spoke in total spanish for over two hours. After dinner, I even talked with my fiance in spanish over chat. The family here and my fiance have this incredible ability to make me feel confident in what I am attempting to say in Spanish-- even if it isn't correct. Also, before I went to bed last night I watched an episode of a kid's tv show... en espanol. I think that will be my nightcap for the rest of my time here.

So... after spending a week in bed, after not being able to see my friends off because I was sick, after moving in with a new family with less that 24 hour notice, and after feeling like nothing was going to change-- life is back to where it should be. I feel even better than the day I arrived and now to just keep myseslf healthy, and that light burning.

En conclusion, I also thank you all for the prayers... and continue to keep them coming :) because a prayer never hurt. xoxo

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Day 25: Mejor

I do not have much to report from Argentina besides a medical note that I am feeling much better today. Mejor. I have been in bed and in the house since Tuesday, and will be here again all day today.

I am happy that I am locked in my house for another day, actually. Traditionally, this would be the day I would start moving... meaning I would probably make myself sick all over again.

Two of mis amigas came to visit me yesterday in the evening. We went and sat outside in the shade for about an hour. It was great to finally see someone from school.

The sad part about this week for me: I will be the only one left from my original group beginning Sunday. All of the people that I started with on Enero 4, will be gone. I will be the old one starting Lunes at school. This week has been a challenge because the four people left in my group I have not seen. Hopefully, I will see them tomorrow when I head to town to go to the doctor in the morning.

Lunes, I will begin making new friends. Talking really is not hard for me and I can pretty much befriend an arbol, but it will be odd to not have the original group for the rest of my time here in Bariloche.

A part of me can not believe that four weeks have flown by so quickly. The other part can not believe that it has only been four weeks.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Day 23: Update

This is a picture of victory. Almost a four hour hike to the summit, Cerro (Mount) Lopez is the highest mountain in the area besides Cerro Tronador (the mountain directly in front of me this picutre). Five of us completed the journey together on Sunday.

If you look closely, you can see trails in the snow that start all the way at the top... yes, I slid down this mountain to get to the bottom, plus one more part after this. My first experience with snow resulted in twisting my ankle, doing a complete 360 while lying flat on my back and being really freaked out :)

Cerro Tronador. This mountain is on the Argentina-Chile boarder. I have yet to travel there for the hike, but I hope to in the next few weeks.
Ha, Ok. So my first experience with snow was on the way up when I trekked through what seemed like miles of sugar blankets. The climb up included: snow, rocks, a dirt path, more rocks, a dirt trail, more snow and then more rocks. The climb also included some silly faces in the snow.

I have nothing to excuse my week absence besides fact that the third week here in Bariloche has flown by really really fast. Too fast. I feel like I have heard a saying before that after the third week in anyone's travels, it simply begins to pass too quickly.

Before I start with my adventures above, I will let you all know that I am currently sick. Si, otro vez. (yes, again). I went to the doctor today. It cost me 60 pesos (roughly 18 USD) to see the doctor and to get part of the medicine. I have more or less tonsillites and a sinus infection. My tonsils are so swollen that it looks like I put two golf balls in on each side of my throat. I have to stay at home until Friday morning and then I have to go see the doctor. Again.

Yes, muy triste. Sad. Very sad. I was excited about this week because I can tell that my Spanish is improving. School has been coming along really well and I am really enjoying my time learning. I personally think that my teacher is the best in the whole school and it is enjoyable to go to class when you can understand everything and then respond. Delightful!

I will be missing a whole week of school in exchange for mi cama, but I really need to get better. I can not keep getting sick. I bought comida and enough liquids to make Noah's ark float, before I took a taxi and headed home.

Well, before all this sad sickness came along, I hiked Cerro Lopez on Sunday. We started at noon. The first half of the hike is all up hill on a narrow trail. It included rocks, dirt, rocks and more dirt. Also! it included flies. Lots of flies. Lots of pesky HORSE flies. I think the group decided that they were more like flying rats because they were so big. They also stung you. At one point, I think one of them wanted to live in my ear.

But we did make up a new dance move in memory of our dear fly friends. For those older generations who may not know about dance moves like the shopping cart, the sprinkler or the lawn mower, then you may not find the humor in this. But we call it the pesky fly: where you are walking and waving your arms in a circular motion around your head, occasionally swatting at your legs. Ha, well-- we thought it was funny.

Shy of two hours, we made it to the Refugio that sits inbetween the summit and the bottom. We rested for a while. Ate homemade sandwiches on moist white bread. Forty-five minutes later, we wasted no time in climbing treading to the top.

Now. My camera. I left my camera charger at home in Georgia. My mom mailed it to me three weeks ago on Thursday. I had this feeling that was camera was gonna start dying on Sunday. Sure enough, it began flashing red at me before I even got the top. Meaning I had to take pictures wisely. The only picture that I did not get is one of the rocks that we climbed for most of the way up. At some points, I felt like I needed a rope and some rock climbing shoes.

It was intense. Crazy. Insane. REALLY insane. But it was also a moment of accomplishment and achievement. When we finally made it to the summit I think I could have cried, but the view took my breath away. I have never seen such beauty. The thing about Bariloche is every mountain or place that I go it is something different. There are new mountains, new lakes, new scenery. It really is incredible.

I could write more today, but I have three days to catch myself up on my own life. I have been too busy to even meditate on the events of the past week. It has been a wild one. A fast one. And even though I am sick now, it has been a good one :)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Day 15: Details

I have yet to mention the details of Bariloche that I probably look at more than most people. The shower knobs read "C" and "F": caliente y frio. My first shower two weeks ago finally resulted in me discovering that C did not mean cold...

My "mom" has amazing gardens. Though, most of the houses around have immense rose gardens. Red, pink, yellow and orange roses. The calles smell of lavender. Always. Big, purple lavender bushes line the streets. The calles.

But my "mom" also has food gardens. Right now there are raspberries, strawberries and gooseberries. A few days ago, she planted a blackberry bush. Last night for dinner she needed an onion. I went outside and picked one from her garden, and she put into this soup with eggplant, corn, mushrooms and tomotes. Fresco. Fresh.

I sat outside in the backyard for a few hours this morning and read. There was a bird. The same bird pulled brown, wiggling worms out of the ground for hours. This bird was old. His plumas were ruffled in the front. White and ruffled from many years of flying. Tattered from years of living.

I got into a car today for the first time in two weeks. I went out with my "mom" and one of her friends for the afternoon. It was nice that she invited me. The warm sun disappeared on us though as we got to the beach. But this beach was not really a beach. A dock located on a hiking trail in this small, almost laguna, sort of place. When we arrived, only one young girl had jumped ship into the cold waters.

As I may have stated before, the summer this year in Bariloche has been really cold. My "mom" likes to go to the beach during the summer. Around here, the sun only shines brightly for two, maybe three, months out of the year. The summer sun rejuvenates the people of Bariloche. My "mom" wanted so bad to have summer today that she became the second person to plunge in.


Mate. Mate tea. I have yet to mention Mate. It is a very strong tea that is from Argentina. People can drink it in a tea bag form OR-- people drink it from a mate cup. Google it. You must see the variety of cups that people use to drink it. They come in all shapes and sizes and it has a straw: wood and aluminum are the most popular. In the cup you put Mate in it, pack it down with the straw and then fill it with water. The water is hot but you drink it fast.

I will be the first to tell you that Mate looks like someone scraped up dirt out of my mom's flower bed and decided to start drinking it... ha. BUT let me tell ya... it is good. I am addicted. Just like everyone else in Argentina.

We sipped our Mate on the dock until its warmth no longer kept the goosebumps at bay in the disappearing sun. The playa turned into a trip to Colonial Suiza. A local entity turned into a toursit trap. Colonial Suiza is a Swiss Colony that settled in Argentina around the 1930s. Think of the place as a permanent art festival. Clothes, jewerly, pantings, food, chocolate. All handmade. Everything wonderful.

The last detail I want to talk about is the museo. Today, I felt this spirit of old Swiss in this yellow house. This yellow house with white trim and shutters was the first house in the colony. The whole house is surrounded by verduras and jardins. The veggie gardens are all lined up perfectly, each with a wooden stock at each end. There is a tienda that sells the fruits and veggies that are grown there.

This place is special because it was built by one family many years ago and has survived. Not only has it survived, it has grown. The same family still owns and operates this colony in such a modern time. The small spirit of that first house has lived on and I wish that more places like it still prospered.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Day 14: Hiking Weekend

Hi all :)

I went for a five hour hike today to Mount Otto. It is the closest mountain to Bariloche. It was the perfect day for some hiking. Cloud coverage, wind and more wind... ha. But wind is always a factor in Bariloche.

I went with a friend of mine from school. A lot of my other friends went white water rafting today BUT I knew that the weather was gonna be a little colder today so I opted out of that one.

I am feeling better too. I mean obviously as I set out for a five hour hike. While we were out exploring, we came across two different sets of rock climbers and that was sooo awesome. If I knew how to, then I might attempt... looks exciting!!

Again, the veiw from the top of is breathtaking. I really think that is the only word that sums up the beauty of Bariloche. It really is pretty as a post card.

We also went off the trail walking... ok, we went into a trail that said: prohibio sacar... ummm we just pretended that we didn't speak spanish... haha :) There we found some really nice views of the other side of Bariloche. Which is more mountains. For lunch, we perched along a rock in the sun and away from the wind. I drank half my water and inhaled my sandwich. Immediately resulting in my pack weighing five pounds less.

I felt very accomplished and healthy after the hike today... but as we headed down the last part of the mountain in a slow, causal walk, a man RAN past us up the mountain. YES, RUNNING. No jogging involved, but sprinting. I did look back to admire his great calf muscles. I would have fallen on my face.

I think what I have come to like the most about my friends in Bariloche is how they all are very different and unique, but we all get along so well. Everyday I have one-on-one time with a different person, doing a different activity. Meeting great people makes this trip even more perfect.

Meeting new people means another person I get to learn about. Not to mention, another person I can visit in the future. :-) Tonight, I am resting and going to make tofu with my 'mom'. I am going on an eight hour trail tomorrow... golly bless me... soooo I need some crazy good sleep this evening.

To end, I would like to say that I hope this blogs finds everyone well. Know that I am thinking about you always. Lots of love, xoxo.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Day 11: Mi cama

My bed.

This is where I have stayed all day today. I walked to get some medicine and more orange juice this morning, but other than that-- I have been in bed sleeping with Mickey... the cat ;)

I have not introduced my lovely animals yet. The cat is Mickey. She is very very sweet and will sit with you all day if you let her. The dog is Luna. She also is very sweet and stays inside. I think that she is one of the calmest dogs I have ever met... well, besides my Brooks from growing up. I am really happy they have animals. They are great company and lots of fun.

One last thing for today... I have only been in Bariloche for 11 days and I have already made such good friends. I know that I have God to thank for this. My girl friend Kathrina came by to see me today. To check in on me because she knew I was sick. She also said that 'the group' said to feel better and that they missed me :) That right there has truly brightened my day.

I am looking for brighter and warmer skies tomorrow... last time I checked the weather reported a high of 33 celsius... you can convert that if you are interested.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day 10: the bad with the good

Today has been a bad day. Just an overall, no good very bad day. I think it has been bad for a few reasons:

1) I am sick. Yea, the sinus/cold monster has finally got me. I knew that it would eventually. I mean the weather here is more unstable than Georgia's so it really was only a matter of time.

2) I miss my friends. I have class in the afternoon this week. Hopefully this will be the only week where I do not have class in the morning. Missing my friends would not be too bad, but the guy that I now have class with-- I terribly dislike. I tried to give the kid the benefit of the doubt because he is from Nottingham, England where Robin Hood is from, but I think this guy steals from the poor and gives to the rich.

He likes to talk. Ha, I know. Fancy me saying that someone else likes to talk. But he likes to talk in Spanish (which is perfectly fine) but I am shy in Spanish. Very shy and I do not need someone butting in every two seconds when I am attempting to speak. He really annoys me. Even worse, he totally sucks up to the teacher. I mean his Spanish is not that great (not that I can talk) but at least he tries. They both smoke, so when they are outside filling their lungs with their nicotine friend, they are also bonding very closely.

In class today, at one point I felt like I had been invited to a dinner party where only three people showed up and the one person (ME!) they really did not want to include in their conversation. I do not think it would be too bad overall, but then when I attempted to talk he corrects me. Who are you to correct me?

An overall trying day. Then he has enough nerve after class to tell me that he talks a lot and that he was sorry. Well! Then shut your mouth if you are so incredibly sorry. Otherwise, keep it to yourself.


3) I think that I am going to stop with two.

Out with the bad, in with the good.
It is now gone and tomorrow is a new day... hopefully.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Day 9: Rethinking

I woke up this morning at 8 a.m. Generalmente (Generally), I leave for school at 8:40 and have class from 9 to 1. But this morning I received a phone call that I will be having school in the afternoon from 2 to 6 p.m. This morning it was raining really bad and I did not feel too well, so needless to say, I had no problem in going back to sleep for three more hours.

Today I am rethinking. Rethinking about my adventures so far here in Bariloche. Yesterday, I was really tired when I wrote my blog and I left out some details I wanted to share:

I sang "Should of Been a Cowboy," by Toby Keith all day yesterday. Especially when we got to gallop really fast across this field. At one point I almost started laughing... I couldn't tell you why. Maybe in that moment it all settled in: I am in Patagonia, Argentina where my closest neighbor is Antarctica for the next three months and I am currently galloping across a field on a horse with no name... another good song, by the way.

It might have been on purpose, but I forgot to mention that I ate carne yesterday... meat that is. Yes, do not fall down on me. Red meat in an empanada... small, grounded-up hamburger meat. It didn't bother me too bad. I pretended it was something else. Piles of meat including sausage and pork got passed around the table, but I did not partake in it. :) I filled my belly with salad, bread, water and wine... and orange juice. All mixed together for one delightful mezcla.


Back to today. I am rethinking. I was sad about being moved to the afternoon class because I will not be with any of my friends. But I am here to learn Spanish and most of my friends barely speak Spanish or English for that matter of fact.

There is a friend of my house mom's living here with us for 20 days. He arrived yesterday and we talked at lunch today. He said that he went to the States in the late 60's to learn English in Washington D.C. But he doesn't know much English now because he never uses it. For an hour, the two of us struggled to make a decent conversation in both English and Spanish, but I was so taken aback by how eager he was to help me understand Spanish. That hour has made me rethink.

I may like my friends, but I need to rethink what language I use. Yes, one week in, I may not need to be so hard on myself, BUT (for one more time) I need to rethink about my time here. So, I am thanking the wise old man for helping me to rethink.

I already think that the next viente dias while he is here will be some good ones.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Day 8: Horseback Riding

Today, I went horseback riding. Besides the fact my butt hurts and I returned home covered in dirt-- I had a great time. It is very interesting here in Bariloche. One side of the lake (as most of my pictures posted) is very mountain-ish and alive with greens and more snow. The other side of the lake (where I went horseback riding) is more desert like terrain and very windy with dirt.

I arrived at school at 10 a.m. and met up with my amigos that were coming with. It was a thirty minute bus ride to the other side of the lake and then three miles on a dirt path to the ranch.

I went horseback riding on a family owned ranch. I mean, wow. We had two tour guides come with us. My group went all day. We rode for three hours in the a.m., had lunch and then went back out for two more hours.

I saw all of Bariloche from the other side of the lake. Also, my amiga and I switched cameras so she could take pictures of me, and I of her, while we were riding in the morning. I got some great pictures of me riding and it was fun seeing what she had taken of me.

My horse. Well, let's just say that it reminded me of me-- totally stubborn. ha. In the morning he was a little more unsure of me, but by time the afternoon we rolled along as though we were best friends. I really want a horse now. I have always enjoyed them and I can see why people have them. Maybe one day... or maybe a horse besides kids... ha :)

I am one week away from home. One week into Bariloche. One week into already a lot of adventures. Even though I am still very very tired, I hope to get in touch with the local Rotary. I want to start planning my two projects here as part of my Rotary scholarship.

I sadly have not heard from the local Rotary before my arrival, but my house mom said that she knows someone in the Rotary if all else fails. So maybe after my Spanish gets a little better, I can go talk to them. Either way, I am going to figure out a way to bring my Rotary Ambassador promise to Bariloche.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Day 5: Mountain jogging

On the way up...

to one of the MOST BEAUTIFUL...


I have EVER been.

Don't get me wrong-- I LOVE TO HIKE. Love it. I love to walk, run, be active, sweat and all the joys of being outdoors. But before I get into the beauty of these pictures, I must explain my mountain jogging experience.

At school, there is a board with activites for every week. If you are interested, then you sign up and go. Yesterday was such a nice day in Bariloche that many people (myself included) signed up a few hours before the excursion. This place is known as Cerro Campanario. Angie (the school head) said that the walk up was only 30 minutes. Angie came with us. See-- this "walk" is only 30 minutes to Angie because she jogs up this mountain. Normally (come to find out) this is a good hour walk. We JOGGED it in 30 minutes. The movie Rat Race (I think that is the name of it) came to my mind as I kept on repeating, "It's a race."

Insane. Totally insane. I will never go hiking with dear Angie, again. :) But the thing is, whether jogging or hiking, the uphill climb resulted in a breathtaking view. Unbelievable. Wowowowow as my fiance and I say sometimes. Look at the pictures. The blue clearness of the water. I thought that color was only available in the tropics- ha. A few of the mountains belong to Chile, as I am that close to the boarder. The mountain with all the snow made me SUPER happy because I never see such a display of snow in Georgia.

The view put into perspective the beauty that is in Bariloche and Patagonia, Argentina. I am five days in and I feel like I have been here for weeks. I think it is because the people are so nice and the town is very calm and relaxing.

Slowing down after living 3 1/2 years in Atlanta has been a challenge since graduating in December. I am breaking my need to always feel that life is such a rush. Por ejemplo: when you go to a restaurant in Argentina-- do not be in a hurry. They consider it rude. Do not rush the server. Do not rush the drink order. Do not rush the food. I mean, it comes out in a reasonable time, but it is not rushed. Needless to say, fast food does not exist in Bariloche. I don't even think they have a McDonald's. And no Starbucks, either :)

But... life goes on.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Day 2

Two days into school and I already feel like I have learned more in the past 60-ish hours than the past four years of college. Or maybe I am finally coming out of my shell because in Bariloche I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I really like school. It is a school totally for the learning of Spanish. There are 20 students total in the school, all at different levels. It is not like a normal universidad. People come and go for however long they wish. Many students are only passing through for one or two weeks, others for four weeks. I am on the only student there for such a long period of time, which means I will meet many people by time it is all said and done. In my class, it is me, another chica from Switzerland and my teacher. Haha, I have no option but to talk and participate. And I like my profesora even more because when I mess up or I am trying really hard to say something, she let's me struggle through it and helps me. She doesn't look at me like I am dumb... past experiences with college professors.

Today in Bariloche it is cold. It is the summer time, but it still only reaches 75 to 80 degrees maximum. It is maybe only 50 today and very very windy from the lake. Which is normal. Tonight it is supposed to reach 30 degrees. LUCKILY tomorrow it should be warm.

Last night I went out with my new friends and we tried our hand at the local activities-- coffee and helado (ice cream), a few shops and then an Irish pub (go figure, right? Irish pub in Argentina? ha).

The picture above is of the lake from earlier today. Need I say more? It is so beautiful.

My other adventure everyday is walking to and from school and then out to town if I want. THERE ARE SO MANY HILLS HERE! and when I say hills, I really mean steep mountains... haha. If you know me at all, then you know I love working out and jogging and walking, but this one hill is unlike anything I have even walked more than once. It is over a mile of steep uphill walking. I walked it twice yesterday. My calves hurt :) but I will be in good shape come April.

For now, I will leave you with my biggeset challenge for the next three months: pensar como un Argentinean... to think like an Argentinean... why this is so important and also challenging? The only way I am going to learn Spanish is by forgetting all my English grammar and sentence structures and mind frame and think like an Argentinean. Or as my fiance says: Someone is going to need to teach me English when I return.

Untill then-- when in Rome, do as the Romans.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Made it.

My adventure began the moment I stepped into the airport and told me that my 5 lb overweight bag would cost me $150. Highway robbery, I decided. The next adventure was telling everyone that I love hasta luego untill April.

The flight itself was bumpy and largo... long. The worst turbalance was over Cuba. The worst turbulance also occured as I was attempting to use the restroom. It is hard enough to use the extremely small, cubical bathroom, let alone use it while thinking that you are going to fall out into the aisle with your pants at your knees.

When I arrived in Buenos Aires at 7:15 a.m., 4:15 a.m. eastern time, it took an hour to get through customs. But luckily, I did learn on the plane that Buenos Aires has two airports: one for international flights and the other for domestic flights. So-- 115 pesos (40 bucks USD) and 30 minutes later, I arrived at the aeroparque for my other two hour flight.

I slept most of the way. and by time I landed, after 22 hours of traveling, I felt engulfed with nausea and tiredness. Though Bariloche from the air eased some of my pain. We turned and rounded the mountains and I saw Bariloche. THE mountains. Oh my goodness the mountains with the snow capped tips. Unlike anything I had ever seen. Also, the lago (lake) that the whole town sits on was more beautiful that I could have possibely imagined. The town itself is my adventure for tomorrow when I start school.

My family is very nice and my "mom" tiene suerte bien con plantos (has a green thumb). The gardens around the house are giant. She told me today that she always uses the water that she boils vegetables in to water some of her plants because of the vitamins. I told her "tengo mala suerte con plantos" (black thumb!) and that I never would have thought about that.

At first, I was extremely overwhelmed. Tired, hungry and blah. I wasn't even speaking in English, let alone speaking in Spanish. I took my first siesta and I am now ready to explore.

I can already tell that things are different. Also, I could have left more stuff home, even though I thought 55lbs for three months was pretty good. Life is simple here. Quite. I will walk everywhere and the outdoors are already calling me. I am ready for whatever tomorrow brings.