Saturday, December 8, 2012


It’s been almost a year since I came back from Argentina.  It’s undeniable that much has changed. But then again, that statement doesn’t mean a whole lot… technically, a lot has changed from this morning. I guess all that I’m saying is that life is in constant motion, and that as much as we try and try to predict and understand where our future will take us, there is absolutely NO FREAKING WAY we can know! We don’t know where we will be led, or what opportunities we will bump into. We don’t know whom we will meet or how those people will change our lives …or how we just might change theirs. We don’t know what lessons we will learn, or how we will learn them. And if the future isn't tricky enough the present, oftentimes, appears to be fleeting. The opportunities we follow and the experiences we dive into seem all too short-lived.  The slightly melancholy notion of: “it was good while it lasted” may ring true if we continue to mindlessly spin through.  Spinning is fun, but we all eventually find ourselves in those quiet moments, when we realize how much it all means. How the “once was” is an everlasting chapter in our lives. How everything has been shaping us. Impressions have been made on us, and they undoubtedly impact the impression we leave on others. For the journey we are on, is not yet over.  And as frustrating as the unknown journey may be, it somehow captivates us into dancing one more dance.  Perhaps it’s a combination of the mystery, the music and the promise that waits for us. For, whether I’m on the other side of the equator or sitting on my couch in Baltimore the adventure continues.  The story continues. It will always continue.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

El Fin del Mundo, El Principio de Todo

The End of the World, The Begninning of Everything

Part 1

Ayy caramba, it has been far far too long… but I have been busy but no excuses. Now, where do I begin, where do I begin? So much time has passed, so much has happened, so much to write this is overwhelming, there’s so much to say. Ok. Deep breath. Let me take you back. Waaay, waay back. 3 months back. When the first chatter of ISPs among the group began. What’s an ISP you ask? … an Individual Study Project. Basically you choose any topic related to the theme of our program, (Regional Integration, Development and Social Change) develop a research question and then conduct all of the necessary research, write a 20-40 page paper in spanish and prepare a presentation in 4 weeks. Also, you technically have free reign over WHERE you do your research as long as it’s in one of the countries we studied and visited (Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil)… as long as you are going there because it is essential to your topic… and as long as YOU do all the planning. So despite all of these extra clauses to the “you can do your research anywhere” announcement, the chance to venture outside the city was far too exciting of an opportunity to let pass. After one good, hard look at the map of South America Ben, Noah and I made a pact (which involved huddling up, putting our hands in the middle and saying “Go Team” or something like that) to travel to the southern most tip of Argentina. Destination: El Fin del Mundo (The end of the World) Well, that was 3 months ago and just last weekend I returned to Buenos Aires from that exact destination and one heck of an adventure.

Now I’m going to fast forward to November 12th which means that I am not going to go into detail about all of the hoops (and man were there a lot of hoops) we had to jump through to get permission to do our research so far away, and I’ll just skip the dramatic part about me almost not being able to go because I didn’t have a contact for an interview (part of our research requires us to conduct related interviews), and maybe at some point I’ll come back to all of the happenings in between. But here we are, now, November 12th the date of our flight to Ushuaia aka El Fin del Mundo. I didn’t sleep much the night before…packing and anxious excitement… so I passed out on the flight (which meant that I missed the awesome snack box – made sure that didn’t happen the next flight.) About 3 and half hours later I was woken up by quite a bit of turbulence – and thankfully so, because the view out the window was stunning and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it… snowcapped mountains as far as the eye could see. When we got off the airplane I was literally almost blown off the stairs (yes! We got off the airplane on the stairs like celebrities – I think that was the first time I didn’t get off an airplane via a jetway – except celebrities would have had a jetway this time cuz there’s no way Justin Bieber would have let the paparazzi document him and his hair combating the wind like we had to – I’m certain it looked like we were trying to move through molasses – the wind was SO strong. not cute. Funny, but not cute.) Anyways, we made our way to our Bed and Breakfast where we were excitedly greeted by the owners of La Maíson (4 generations of women Elsa about 80 years old, Adriana – 55 más o menos, Solange – 27 ishh (we are still debating that one) and Chloe, the 3 month old baby) who would be our new family for the next 2 weeks.

Part 2

The average person who visits Ushuaia stays for about 2-3 nights, so when this family found out that we were staying for 2 weeks – they were thrilled! Obviously good business for them, but they are also the kind of people who truly enjoy getting to know the people that stay in their house. They live for those late night conversations over a cup of coffee. And so when we arrived we were greeted not only with hugs and kisses but also a fresh baked cake, which drew all of us into the dining room for the first shared merienda of many. The task over the next two weeks would be to find the right balance between work and play. Ultimately we had come to Ushuaia to experience the world at it’s ends, to make an epic journey and soak in the beauty of a place so unique…err…I mean…. we had ventured all the way to Ushuaia with high hopes and motivations to uncover the hidden answers to our gripping ISP questions. Too be honest, being the nerd that I am, both were true, and thus, a balance was needed. My ISP was (still is) about how the Ministry of health confronts the health problems the city faces through health campaigns. Being located in a somewhat isolated place with a rigorous climate ultimately leads to poor nutrition, low levels of physical activity and high rates of tobacco use. I studied the roots of these problems and how the health campaigns dealt with them. This meant that I made quite a few visits to the Ministry of health located across town… this also meant that I had to make quite a few phone calls in Spanish. Phone calls are not my strong suit to begin with and making them in Spanish on cell phones with bad service is generally a recipe for disaster…. Almost every time I talked to someone there was that moment when neither of us understood each other, I would be asking for them to repeat a street name and they would be saying, “sorry I don’t know what you’re saying…”…Luckily the people of Ushuaia got used to giving the same directions over and over again and I got pretty good and zooming in on google maps and having those “aha!” moments… OHhhh, she meant Tekenika (actual street name) not ¿Tiene Sheniqua? (translation: Do you have Sheniqua?)…good thing I figured she wasn’t actually asking about anyone named Sheniqua and just said ok.

My research also gave me the opportunity to meet us with residents to talk about their perceptions and beliefs about how the climate and location impacts their level of exercise and diet. My advisor for the project has family friends in Ushuaia and before I left she gave me a few names and phone numbers so I could get in touch with them in order to get the inside scoop from the feguinos (person from Tierra del Fuego) themselves . Well, what I thought was going to be a formal interview with Abo Trebuck basically turned into an hour and half long personal tour of Ushuaia --it was so cool! We drove along the coast, hiked to this beautiful viewpoint, drove through the mountains to this hidden waterfall and talked a little bit about health in Ushuaia:) The tour also included a stop at his home to meet his daughter and an offer to meet up over the weekend to head to the National Park. Now that interview, I have to say was a pretty good balance of work and play.

We ended up taking his offer to go to the National Park, which turned out to be one of my favorite days in Ushuaia. And more than just being escorted to the National Park, Abo had us over for lunch with his family before we went. It was a hardy ravioli lunch shared with a truly generous family. Abo also got us into the park for the Argentine rate ;) … those argentines sure do know how to work the system. The National Park was gorgeous even though it was cloudy and overcast. Once again we were driven all over the park and over the course of a few hours we saw SO MUCH beautiful scenery, which most people (who walk through the park on foot) never make it to… it was more than I ever expected from a complete stranger but boy am I glad I made that phone call. I still get texts from Abo every now and then just checking in and getting updates on his choir practices.

In between phone calls, interviews and tours around Ushuaia we also spent lots of time with the bed and breakfast family. It was really interesting living with them – their style of life is so different, there are always new people, from all over the world, moving in and out of the house…a unique way to make a living. Collectively the ladies speak Spanish, English and French… and at one point I was sitting at the table having a conversation in Spanish, while another couple was talking in French and 2 other people were having a conversation in English, all the same table. Hello, study abroad! Gotta love that. I also gotta love the fact that the “Maíson women” became like family to us… we would eat dinner together, we got cooking lessons on how to make homemade bread and alfajorcitos (dulce filled cooke treats J) and we even shared a bathroom. By the end we would be watching and feeding baby Chloe while they showed the new guests around the house. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Possibly the most memorable night in Ushuaia was our last night there – it was Thanksgiving, which obviously isn’t a holiday in Argentina, but we obviously still wanted to celebrate. SO we decided to mix Argentine and American traditions and had an asado(wonderfully delicious bbq) at the B&B with our new fam. So that afternoon we went to the butcher shop and got LOTS of meat, dusted off their grill and got to work. Little did I know there were ALSO plans to celebrate my birthday while everyone was still together. So, while I was standing outside keeping Adriana, the grill-master, company/enjoying the free smells, everyone else was inside decorating the dining room for my birthday with streamers and balloons. When I came in with a platter of meat, they all surprised me and sang a round of happy birthday! We also told Solange, the main chef in the house, about pumpkin pie – so she gave it her best effort and it was carried in after dinner accompanied with another rendition of happy birthday as well as a flame –shooting, spark-spewing candle – unlike any I have ever seen… it was hilarious, and tasty and VERY, VERY nice.

Leaving the following day was certainly sad, but our Patagonia adventure wasn’t quite over…

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Uruguay: Fun, Fun, Fun. The trip that couldn't go wrong

As our plane from Asunción, Paraguay started to descend into the airport - supposedly located in Montevideo, Uruguay - I could not stop laughing as I looked out the window. I was looking for the city we were supposed to spend the next couple of days in but didn't see anything. (Some might call that nervous laughter.) There were no tall buildings, neighborhoods, busy streets, nothing-- Just an airport that appeared to be in the middle of the countryside. Our plan to get off the plane on our own, with absolutely no plans seemed a little precarious at this point.

Ok, hold up, explanation needed: So why in the world were we stopping here you ask? Well, our group had just spent 2 amazing weeks traveling through South America… our first week was spent all together in Porto Alegre, Brazil with a side excursion to Iguaçu Falls. Then, we split up, half of our program going to Uruguay and the other half to Paraguay (more blogging on these trips to come… yes, it will be a little bit out of order, but that’s just how my mind is working right now… everything’s a bit jumbled) Anyways, I was with the group that went to Paraguay, and on Thursday we were heading back to Buenos Aires via plane… BUT, the plane that we were taking back had a short layover in Montevideo. SO, my adventure buddies (Ben and Noah) and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to explore Uruguay for the weekend.

We literally walked off the plane with absolutely no idea where the city was, no idea how to get to the city, no hostel reservation, no idea what there was to do, no tickets back to Buenos Aires, nothing. For someone who plans out every hour of her day back at Hopkins, this was a bit uncharacteristic….no, VERY uncharacteristic. But I was ready to just go with the flow… whatever happens, happens. It was adventure time! Our first task in the airport was to exchange some money for pesos Uruguayos: success! Second task, find a map: FAIL. No map to be found… this could make things difficult. But after talking to some man at some booth, we learned that we could take a bus into the city for a few dollars – and from there we could find our hostel… hopefully. (we had an address, but were unsure if there would be any beds available). As soon as we walked outside we realized how truly unprepared we were… especially me -- It was MUCH colder in Uruguay, people were wearing winter jackets… I had a dress on… and it was windy. This would be interesting. Luckily, we only had to wait about 2 minutes for the bus to show up and soon enough we were cruising through beautiful Uruguayan countryside. (So far, so good!) Eventually, we were dropped off in the middle of the city. Time to find our hostel. Still no map. Relying solely on the directions from people we asked in the streets, we successfully found Red Hostel. And better yet, they had room for us to stay! (On a roll!) The rest of our trip continued like so: start out with no plan, ask for a little advice, sort of make a plan, let everything work out much, much better than expected. EVERYTHING was in our favor this weekend - it was pretty incredible. (…also, it was a nice change from the typical Ferguson luck.)

On Friday, we spent the day walking all over Montevideo (the capital of Uruguay). It was a perfect day for walking around… apparently it had been really cold earlier in the week, but no joke, it was sunny without a single cloud in the sky as we explored the city. We walked to this older part of town with neat buildings and ate lunch at an awesome parilla - where we sat at a bar with a humongous grill right in front of us. A legit kinda grill…there was a wood burning fire next to it and they spread the coals from the fire underneath the grate to cook the meat. Everything was prepared right in front of us… it was a really unique setting and the smells were heavenly. (It smelt almost as good as my deck at home does when pulled pork is on the Big Green Egg…almost.) When we were deciding what to order, we saw a huge platter being prepared so Ben asked the cook, “Is that for 2 people or 4?”…. The cook looked up at him in a way that made us all feel kinda pathetic, and responded, “Este es para uno.” [This is for one.] haha… we were clearly not ready for this meal. The three of us ended up sharing the Asado Completo for 2, it came in a big tray with 5 or 6 different kinds of meat… in short it was delicious and more than enough for all of us. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking along the boardwalk next to the river and relaxing in a park… (…playing the nut game…you had to throw these little coffee bean nut things into a circle on the side walk, I was the only one who didn’t get one in, I hate losing, I was not happy,... but then I remembered we were in Montevideo, so I was happy again.) After a nice nap back at the hostel, we ventured back out to watch an acapella group perform outside city hall – they were actually really good! We then decided we needed a lighter dinner after our extra filling lunch. We ended up picking up some cereal from the grocery store and eating it at on the roof of our hostel… it was perfect. Oh, and we star gazed, my faave! And saw a shooting star!! Couldn’t have been happier.

This morning (Friday) we decided we wanted to spend the day in Colonia, a well-known city in Uruguay close to the Argentine border, and then take a boat back to Buenos Aires in the evening. As we headed to the bus station, it was looking like a pretty overcast, rainy day and it seemed as if the great weather, and our luck that had brought it, was coming to an end. That assumption was quickly proven to be wrong… we entered the bus station without any idea which bus to take or what the schedules for them were-- we walked in at 9:23 am, saw that a bus was leaving at 9:30, bought a ticket, casually walked over to where the bus was parked, hopped on and the bus pulled away only minutes later. Perfect. Two hours later we arrived in Colonia, the sky was clear and the sun was shining once again. As we explored Colonia we discovered that it was one of the most beautiful little towns. It was complete with gorgeous cobblestone, tree-lined streets, old rustic brick buildings, cute colorful houses, a lighthouse, and a marvelous rocky shoreline perfect for naps, reading, a bit of climbing, and getting your feet wet in the icy water.

We made it back to the port, got our Uruguayan passport stamp, got on the boat and arrived back in Buenos Aires at about 5:15pm. Although it was sad that this exciting adventure had come to an end, it felt good to know exactly where I was, where I was going and how I could get there. Traveling without plans was kind of thrilling, anything could have happened. We had luck on our side this time, but even if we hadn’t, it wouldn’t really have mattered -- I was with great friends who could make any situation that seemed “dumb, dumb, dumb” turn into one that was “fun, fun, fun.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Argentine Oddities and Packing

Argentine Oddities
  • Almost everyone in Argentina drinks maté, this tea made with maté herbs. It is the social drink here – people drink it everywhere. Sometimes a whole group of people will share the same cup/straw. People who drink mate tend to fill up this special cup with the herbs and then carry around a thermos full of hot water so they can keep refilling. There is a special kind of straw that keeps the herbs from actually being consumed (most of the time). I haven’t really tried it since I’m not much a tea person, but I think it’s an acquired taste.
  • Dog Walkers –One really popular job in Buenos Aires is to walk dogs, 15 to 20 dogs at a time. No joke. These people literally have so many dogs that I have to get off the sidewalk to let them to pass. I also walk through a dog park on my way to class in the morning and there has to be a good 350 dogs in this little park. I’ll have to take a picture of this so you all believe me. It’s crazy. Also, these are not little city dogs that you can keep in your purse, these are the full blown, big kind of dogs.
  • Lavandería – One of the biggest frustrations here has been laundry. I am not even a clean freak and can last a while without doing laundry (ask my roommates :) but when I want to do it here, I have to pick one of the laundromats nearby (there are a quite a few). Then, I drop everything off (pay a lot of money) and pick it all up 3 sizes too small. Trying to work the crop top look…
  • - Sponge update – it’s getting musty again…eagerly awaiting a new one.
  • Oh and did I mention I took a hovercraft ride… (if this doesn’t make sense to you don’t worry about it… if you leave a comment about it, I might delete it…sorry tios ;))


now for story time

“Our days are identical suitcases – all the same size – but some people can pack more into them than others”

I feel like packing a suitcase is definitely an art, you only have so much space to bring what you want and need. Though I certainly have not perfected the art, I still love packing … and smashing as much as I can into one little suitcase. This weekend I had lots of things I had to do, lots of things I wanted to do and 3 days to pack (we got Monday off for Columbus Day too!) We had a lot of homework and 2 midterm essays due on Tuesday so in between getting done what I needed to, I found space for a national soccer game, fresh juice and alfajores (delicious dulce de leche desserts) at a hip new café, Saturday night youth group and a trip to El Tigre.

On Friday night, Argentina played Chile as the start to the elimination rounds for the World Cup in 2014 in Brazil. From what I gathered, we’re still in the pool play stage to determine which countries will actually make it to the World Cup. But, it was a big enough deal to bring Messi back from Spain to play in the game. It was also a big enough deal that we decided to get tickets BEFORE we went to the game ;) At this game we absolutely would not have been able to get through with the wrong tickets (see boca junior post for details on how to make that work at a Boca game). I think I was patted down 4 or 5 times and my ticket must have been ripped and torn 7 different times. We were sitting…well, standing in the “populares” section, or the cheap seats with the rowdy crowd. But, our view of the field was great and allowed us all to see Messi’s spectacular skills – I feel like he was putting on a show for us. He had one goal and one assist! …my favorite cheer was “Olé, olé olé olééééé, Messsiiii, MEsssssiiii!!” …mostly because I could figure out all the words :) but he really was so much fun to watch! The final score was 4-1 with Argentina taking the W!

On Sunday I took a trip with Noah and Ben to El Tigre, a little town about an hour outside of the city. On our train ride there we couldn’t stop raving about how beautiful it was outside, and how we couldn’t have picked a better day to go - we planned to walk around one of the outdoor markets and then hang out by the river. But, we have a serious problem with jinxing ourselves. The moment we stepped off the train it started pouring! It was time to find a place to take cover to let the rain pass and in a moment of nostalgia/hunger/desperation we decided to get some all-American fast food – which turned into running back and forth in between Burger King and McDonalds (more than once – our plan to take immediate cover didn’t really happen and we ended up getting kinda soaked…) in hopes of finding the cheapest/fastest food. Burger King had the shortest line and the best deal so that’s where we ended up. Only a little ironic that we took an hour train ride to stop at Burger King… but I will admit the outdoor covered seating area was pretty nice. After the rain passed we headed to the market… it was alright. Then, we made our way to the little port area where we decided to take a boat ride through the delta. Being surrounded by nature in very picturesque setting, and having a chance to lean over the side to feel the water spray off the boat (just like I do when we go boating at home :) was exactly what I needed. Our trip to Tigre was completed with a stop at a churro stand. They were made right in front of us, filled with dulce de leche and topped with powdered sugar. Ohh man, they were SO delicious!! - can you say, life changing?!

Speaking of life-changing, can you say Lion King?? Haha. Yes, it is quite possibly The Greatest Disney movie of all time. El Rey de León en 3-D is being shown in theatres in Buenos Aires so we went to see if after class today –- it was all in Spanish, without any subtitles and I knew exactly what they were saying! Either my Spanish improved tremendously since class time when I only understood half the lecture OR I know almost every line by heart. Either way, I fully enjoyed Disney’s masterpiece.

Alright, well it’s time for me to get back to packing my suitcases (figuratively AND literally)… on Sunday I’m off to Brazil and Paraguay for 2 exciting and intense weeks. (We were just debriefed about the details today…yikes!)

Hope all is well in the US of A … or as one of our directors said today… “ooooosssah.”
And for my friends not in the states, hope life abroad is grand!

Miss and love you all,
xoxo, marie

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pujato - a true place

"It is not down in any map; true places never are." - Herman Melville

Pujato is a town of 3000 people, in the middle of the campo (country), surrounded by fields on all sides. This little island is the place the 22 students in my program called home for 5 days last week. Even though we went to this rural pueblo to simply experience everyday rural Argentine life, it wasn’t a place where I just "went through the motions” of life… even if I wanted to, I couldn’t. First of all, I generally had no idea what was happening/where I was being taken, which made going through any sort of motions difficult (ok, that's a slight exaggeration, I didn't have trouble moving there...moreso just knowing when and where to go) but even if I would have had a better idea about what was going on, there was nothing I could do about the fact that every day easily lent itself to spontaneity, and anything but simply motions. This past week there was spontaneous relaxing, playing, talking, listening and learning.

Instantly upon arrival we were welcomed to Pujato with a delicious lunch and mini concert by the local high school drum line. Then, sooner than I expected, I was being hugged and kissed by my new homestay mom Marcela. Marcela SanMartí. Marcela lives with her 2 children, Florencia (22) and Gastón (18), her mom, Nena and their dog, Greta and cat, Baltazar (or some name like that). We spent lots of time with the SanMartí family, (unfortunately Gastón wasn’t there for most of the week as he stays at the university during the week) and I have come to the conclusion that my 2 friends and I certainly lived with the best family in Pujato J

Like I said earlier, it was impossible to just go through the motions there. Throughout the week with our homestay family, my friend Anne and I jumped into the car or tagged along on a walk hundred of times (ok, maybe a dozen) with basically no idea where we were going – we would just start laughing when we were told to head towards the car because we never knew where we would end up. The drive was always funny for this reason and the destination always a good surprise. Here’s a quick summary of where our adventures in Pujato took us:

  • - -Mini little grocery store to buy dulce de leche. Score! (We ate SO much dulce this week)
  • - Different store to order new slippers for Nena… apparently the dog got a hold of her old ones
  • - Bus station to pick up Florencia from school. YAY! Such a great sister!
  • - Raúl’s house. This trip was particularly funny. (During our homestay we had to interview an important person in the city, we were assigned to Raúl, who is the director of the public health sector in the community. The interviews in Pujato were practice for our future individual research projects and part of the process required that we set up a time with our interviewee on our own.) Our mom decided to help us out and just drop us off at his house so we could talk to him face to face and set up a time. But, we, like normal, had little to no idea what was going on, so when were dropped off on the curb, we sheepishly walked up to his door, rang the doorbell and had an awkward encounter with Raúl. He was ready to have the interview right then and there. We were not prepared AT ALL, so we planned on meeting up at 2pm the next day. Luckily he was nice and it all worked out in the end.
  • - Panadería – In some round-a-bout sort of way Anne and I ended up at a local panadería, or bakery where we were invited to help make bread, pies and cakes. To many of you, this probably sounds like a disaster waiting to happen considering my history in the kitchen, but fear not, I did not burn anything, including myself, I did not set a potholder or towel on fire, I did not leave peanut butter in the microwave for too long and no, thank goodness, I did not mix expired Crisco into a hopeful batch of cookies ;) Indeed, my skills were put to the test, but if I do say so myself, the dulce de leche I spread over the cake looked pretty dang profesh J

The week was also filled with guitar jam sessions, runs around the wheat fields, games of frisbee, attending a class with Flor about taxes in Argentina, visits to the local school and believe it or not, a half hour long, impromptu water- balloon fight with 5 little neighbor boys. SUPER BIEN!

It amazes me how much adventure and excitement there was considering the size of the town. Good things come in small packages, right? And, in addition to all the activities out and about in Pujato, the time spent inside the house with just our family was equally memorable. I think one of my favorite memories has to be about Nena, our quite little grandma, who cooked basically every meal for us. She didn’t say a whole lot but when she did, it almost always caught me off guard. So for lunch one day, Marcela decided to cook up some hamburgers, which was a pretty big deal considering she almost NEVER cooks. So, to remember the event, I got out my camera and snapped a few fun fotos. When Nena saw this, she came up to me, and said, “Hey! What is going on? Why didn’t you take any pictures of me? I'm the one who actually cooks!!” (She was legitimately a little upset haha) It was so funny, I was so surprised…. I mean here was quiet little Nena, dishin’ out the sass! I found it hilarious that she wanted to be photographed so badly but I also felt bad that I had neglected to photograph her and the asado (delish bbq she made the first night)… So, for the rest of the trip, we made sure to take lots of pictures of Nena and her scrumptious cuisine– she was such a diva! But, seeing her with tears running down her face as we pulled away in the bus broke my heart. Saying goodbye to everyone was sad, I certainly did not want to leave.

In one week I bonded with this family more than I ever imagined I would. In one week I learned a little bit about soil production, politics and health problems, but I learned a lot about community, family and generosity.

Hopefully, I can at some point return to this very true place.

Love you all,

Hope all is well!

Besos y abrazos,


Sunday, September 25, 2011

..."if you were a man, I would marry you!"

Sorry for the delay in between posts… and sorry this is a short entry. I have so many stories to tell… and at some point I will get to the rest. I am loving Argentina and my study abroad experience has been amazing so far. But here is just a little somethin’ somethin’ to tide you over until I get back from my rural homestay that’s coming up this week. Love you all, and I’ll write again soon!

So as it turns out I have all the charm any Argentine, actually Brazilian, girl could dream of. Not sure how I feel about that – but really, is anyone surprised to hear my cutsie charm is still working below the equator? ;) … After a wonderful day- long picnic hosted by a local church this past Saturday I was invited over to a girl’s apartment for dinner and fun. In such a big city I was amazed to find out that her apartment is only 5 blocks away from mine. Before I went over to her house, I remembered the tidbit of information one of our academic directors had relayed to us earlier on: in Argentina it’s nice to bring a little gift when you go over to someone’s house for the evening. Well, I don’t think that is particularly unique to Argentina or even a standard from what I have observed, but I figured this would be the perfect chance to buy a little bouquet of flowers at the corner flower stand – I have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to do this. (I would seriously buy them everyday and fill my room with these beautiful flowers if I could...but, well, there's not really any sunlight in my room) So, before I made it to the apartment, I got 2 sunflowers, one orange and the other red, garnished with some nice greenery, made into a little bouquet with this perfect white ribbon to tie it all together. I was hoping Priscila would find it just as adorable as I did. In short, she LOVED it! (and so did everyone else who came over [about 12 of her friends]… if they got one compliment, they got 20!) Who knew two little flowers could have someone telling you they would MARRY YOU (…if you were a guy)? Well, I certainly didn’t… but I hope this comes as good advice for all of you blog readers hoping to win the heart of another. The evening was splendid. We ate arepas (traditional Colombian cuisine) chatted and played charades (ALL IN SPANISH!) I had to act out the movie “La Edad de Hielo” or Ice Age… and my team figured it out!! SO EXCITING! For any of you trying to come up with a mental picture of this, just know it was epic acting ;) haha.

But seriously, think about this for a minute, I had barely just met these people and they invited me over to join in on their “friend’s night” without any second thoughts. So blessed to have found such a loving, welcoming and -patient with my Spanish -church community! OK, well, again sorry for my blogging lapse… I will pick things up at some point…Hope life is just peachy for all of you!

Besos y Abrazos, Marie

Monday, September 12, 2011

Boca Juniors en mi corazón.

Sunday night marks one of the craziest, out of control (but in a good way… mostly) nights of my life. Normally with a night like this, I would say it was straight out of the movies – this time you can take that in the most literal way possible. So it was Sunday afternoon, and with a little extra time on our hands, two amigos; Ben and Noah, and I thought, “What better way to spend our Sunday evening than watching a Boca Juniors fútbol game?!?” Boca Juniors are a well- known professional soccer team and are EXTREMELY popular in Buenos Aires. Sure, there are other games coming up, but why let this perfectly good opportunity pass? So we didn’t. Un problema: We didn’t have tickets. Or access to tickets. Or any idea how/when/ where/ from who to get them. After talking with some of our academic directors – we still did not have any clue about how to get them. But, in my mind, this was only a small problem that we could solve as soon as we got to the field. Ha.
So after the three of us met on the steps of the Catédral, we followed some locals decked out in Boca Juniors gear onto a bus that brought us over to the field. You could feel the energy in the air. As we walked towards the stadium, we decided that the best person to get our information from was the police officer on his horse. When we asked where we could get tickets, he told us that there were ticket windows open right outside the stadium. Sounded great! So we were swept into the crowd filing towards the field, when we realized we were passing right by all the ticket windows the police man was talking about, and they were all closed. After talking to a few locals, we quickly realized there were no tickets windows open… in fact, ticket windows are never open before the games… the only way to get a ticket is to be a member of the Boca Juniors athletic/social club or buy the really expensive tourist packages. OR, test your luck, and find a trustworthy person who is selling tickets outside the stadium. At this point, testing our luck was our only option. On our way back towards the streets, we asked a police officer if the ticket sellers would be trustworthy… he replied, “Somos Argentines; por supuesto!” (We’re Argentines, of course.” We decided to be cautious in who we bought tickets from, so as not to be scammed into buying false tickets. But if we found the right person, we figured it could work. We talked to a few people who were selling their tickets for, 200, 300 pesos. We only brought 150 pesos each. Then, this legit-looking guy, named Walter came over and asked us if we wanted to buy his tickets for 150 pesos. He had exactly three. He showed us his official social member card, we asked him a few questions about the tickets and how they worked. It all seemed reasonable and he was nice. He even gave us of each a bro-handshake. I was sold on the bro-handshake. (Never again) We paid for the tickets with all the money we had with us. After paying Walter we had a total of 15 pesos (3.5 U.S. dollars) left and our subway cards to get back. Living on the edge. Walter then escorted us towards the stadium - he was talking and waving with everyone as we walked up to the entrance, he was the real deal. The excitement was really starting to build, my first international soccer game – and its BOCA JUNIORS! I couldn’t believe what was happening, it all seemed too good to be true. was. The tickets he sold us stopped being the real deal when he sent us over to a different entrance from his own.
As soon as we walked up to the entrance and showed the gate managers our tickets, we were turned away! The tickets we had just paid 150 pesos for were only good for kids under the age of 6, las niñas, menores. They weren’t false, but they did us no good. That terrible feeling you get in the pit of your stomach came on strong. Wow. How had we just managed to let that happen.? Walter, we trusted you. Completely beside ourselves, we didn’t know what to do. But we couldn’t just give up and leave. But what to do, how to get in with tickets that wouldn't work?! We talked to quite a few groups of people, did our best to make connections and get advice from other people. There was a female worker who told us it would be impossible to get into the game with the tickets we had. Then, there was also this really cool, chill guy with dreads who told us that we should try again just to see what would happen. He was totally rooting for us. So we tried again, but accidentally went to the same security guy. Bad move - stopped in our tracks. After waiting another 5-10 minutes, asking around, and talking to several different people, we tried a different line. I was really nervous to try this again, I didn’t want to get in trouble, because some people were obviously recognizing us at this point. We went through the neighboring line and the security group didn’t notice the MENOR (minor) label on our tickets and we were let through. Another adrenaline rush… I couldn’t believe it, I was ecstatic!!!…until I turned the corner. Checkpoint #2. Noooo!!!!. Not another one. Now there were turnstiles, and we found that our tickets wouldn’t scan unless we had a social club member with us, letting us in. Cool, Walter, real cool.
We talked to this official looking guy with a clipboard, and we explained our entire situation. He told us, that we could maybe go up to security at gate 18 and tell them there was a problem with our ticket and they might let us in just see the field and then come back. That didn’t make a whole lot of sense, but we did what we were told. As if things were not ridiculous enough, they only got crazier at gate 18. As we were waiting in line this camera crew, with a huge camera and one of those jumbo microphones came up to us and asked us if we spoke in Spanish, and then if we would be willing to be interviewed for their documentary on the culture of fútbol in Brazil and Argentina. What the heck. So, despite all of our frustration, we put on happy faces and told them about the importance of soccer in Argentina and that our passion for Boca Juniors runs deep ;). They were eating it up. After the put the camera down, we said, “Pero, tenemos un problema!” (But, we have a problem.) Wait, wait, wait they said… this was exactly the kind of thing they were hoping to film…. So we explained our entire problem on camera right outside the stadium. The crew then decided to follow us as we attempted to get in. So, as we talked to the guy at gate 18, the camera guy was right in the middle of the whole discussion. Gate 18 guy then told to go to the line farthest to the left. (this was getting a little old) So we went to the first lane with extra large camera and microphone alongside… he saw that our tickets were for MENORES and told us there was nothing we could do. We told him we had come all the way from the U.S. and all we wanted to do was see a Boca Juniors game, we were all out BEGGING him. I was hard -core working the puppy dog eyes. It seemed as if he wanted to help, but couldn’t…technically. He left his post at the turnstile and huddled us up to continue talking…when out of the blue showed up these two Spaniards who had the same MENORES tickets as us…. They somehow knew the guy we were talking to. What happened in the next 5 minutes took us the rest of the game to piece together, we truly DID NOT know what was going on. The only thing I saw was 200 pesos go from the Spaniards’ pocket into the hands of the security guy and as soon as this happened 5 or 6 police officers SURROUNDED the 5 of us… Ben, Noah, Me and the 2 Spaniards. I had no idea what was going on, but I knew that if I was in trouble I could play dumb, because that was absolutely the case. At this point the camera crew decided to go through the first gate to film from the other side and hopefully catch us getting into the game. They police officers kept pushing us together into one little group, and soon after this very official yet sketchy looking guy came up out of nowhere and swiped the 5 of us through, 2 of us in a turnstile at once. (The camera crew caught this on film!) He walked with us to the second check -point and swiped the 5 of us in again. Why he did this for us, I cannot be sure. The three of us did not pay him a thing. He must of thought we were with the Spaniards. Nonetheless, we were home free!!! WE MADE IT IN!!! Finally!! I absolutely could not believe it. My stomach was completely in knots, my heart was beating a million miles per hour… we could not stop freaking out. We raced up the stairs faster than ever… the feeling was unreal. Moments I can never replicate. The past hour outside the stadium seemed like a bad dream, such a roller coaster of emotions. We made it into the stadium 3 minutes before kick-off.
The game was straight up AMAZING. The level of soccer was unbelievable, Boca Juniors blew my mind. The stadium was incredible; we found seats up top, with a great view of everything….the game…the city… the moon. The stadium is well known for shaking and rocking when everyone gets their jump in synch and man could we feel it shake way up top, it was SOOO COOL! And, oh yeah, They won!! 1-0 Cherry on top! The goal was brilliant! The crowd went completely nuts. Our neighbors hugged us in complete excitement. I loved every minute of it.
Over the course of the game, we did our best to figure out how we actually got in. As far as we can tell, it was a combination of corrupt deals (which we did not purposefully take any part in or support in any way) and right time, right place. I think the camera crew was also a crucial support group... just a little extra attention to make things happen. While we learned many lessons from this experience, certain aspects of the predicament were unavoidable. We did our best to be smart and safe the whole time, but one thing I can say for sure is that perseverance served us well this time around. It was an unforgettable night.