Monday, November 15, 2010

I guess the name of my new blog will be... Adventures in Argentina!

PerThe view from my window in Buenos Aires, Argentina
In the Chilean airport we said goodbye to Pisco, the Chilean hard alcohol of choice, and headed off for our two week excursion to explore Buenos Aires and the Argentinian system of education.
 I arrived a day later, after a traditional Argentinian restaurant, overviews of safety, life, and education, and a tour of a few important places in the city at my new home.  It is lovely.
 My host mom loves decorating, and what was originally a normal apartment is now full of life and art (she added that adorable brick wall to the kitchen for example).  It has three rooms.  This is the kitchen/dining room, you've seen the bedroom...
 And here's the living room.
 Claire, my roommate from last year, is also studying abroad here and showed me around the ferias, awesome street fairs that go on all over the cities on Saturday and Sunday.
 My house is close to the "rio", meaning river, which is more like a giant bay leading to the ocean, between Buenos Aires and Montevideo, Uruguay.
 We visited schools for "re-ingreso" (re-entry) because the desertion rate between primary and secondary school in Argentina is over 50%.  Schools like this one offer an opportunity and different learning environment to kids who didn't make it through the normal public school system.  Most have socialist/communist political leanings.
 And this one also runs a radio station and a small independent newspaper.  Casey was on air for a few minutes explaining what we were doing here in Buenos Aires.
 We got to meet one of the madres (mothers) from the Plaza de Mayo, who march every Thursday in honor and memory of the children who disappeared during the dictatorship, as well as run an organization that does everything from social work to political statements/organizing.  She is 96 years old and very active.
 And I discovered that Santiago wasn't quite that big a city after all :).  Buenos Aires is home to almost 13 million people.
 Nestor Kirchner, ex-president and husband of the current president, passed away during our first week here.  Within hours a giant demonstration was organized and signs were posted all over the city in support of the president.
 Most of the streets I walk through daily are like this one narrow with tall buildings on each side.
 During class we often each got an "alfajor."  A very traditional argentinian dulce (sweet/cake/candy) which is like two soft cookie-ish things with dulce de leche between and covered in chocolate.
 There a lots of cute, little cafes throughout the city, this one had good cupcakes.
 We went to a populist school which runs in a recuperated factory.  The teachers all volunteer their time and the students are generally adults or adolescents who hadn't completed secondary school.  The director who spoke to us is sporting the two major Argentinian addictions, maté (kind of like tea or coffee) and a cigarette (more than half the Argentinians I know smoke).
 My host mom, Mercedes, is absolutely wonderful!  And she makes wonderful food like this Spinach tart.
 Her dog, Francisco, is much too intelligent and spoiled for his own good.  He likes to put his paws on the table during dinner and if you stop paying attention he will steal absolutely whatever he can from you.  Not to chew on it, just to hide it away.  And he doesn't just snatch something, he will, for example, get into the bottom pocket of your closed bag and steal something much more subtle like a guitar tuner, or hand sanitizer.  In spite of this, I love him immensely.
 The academic faces of my program (SIT Comparative Education and Social Change).  You've already met Roberto from Chile and next to him is Marta from Argentina.  Our program directors in Argentina are absolutely wonderful, supportive, and fun.
 My host mom and I dressed up and ready to go out to dinner with the group.  We get along fabulously, talk for hours, and live very easily together.
 My friends and I have dinner parties and try to take advantage of being able to buy good wine cheap... something I am REALLY going to miss when I go back to the states.
 When we're not having cultural adventures, or going out all night (a la typical Argentina) we relax, drink wine or maté, play guitar, and chat in parks on on terrazas, the rooftops of apartment buildings.
 And instead of climbing tall mountains to play guitar, I've learned to fill that part of my life by climbing to the top of elevator shafts to play guitar.
 And watch sunsets over the urban world.
 And yes, the italian food, like this pesto Mercedes made, is INCREDIBLE because of all the Italian immigration to Buenos Aires.
So, long story short, I've decided to stay in Buenos Aires until December to do my independent study on immigrant identity of elementary schoolers whose families come from Peru, Bolivia, and Paraguay to try to have more work opportunities in the city..  You'll get to see more photos when I can steal some from my friends :).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"I'm just pretty sure I'm going to LOVE Temuco" -Casey (before we left Santiago)

Temuco was so wonderful that narrowing down the 400 photos I had was hard... I did the best I could but this is a longer blog!  Mostly pictures though, and only a tenth of those I started with :).  Also, again, I stole half my pictures from Leah, photo credits. When we woke up in the morning after an eight hour bus ride, groggy, everything was in the mist
 We drove on dirt roads, following Roberto and Juan's truck into Chapod, our new community
 I arrived, was warmly greeted by my mom and younger brother, and headed to my new home
 It was a beautiful Sunday, so before church in the evening my sisters (Jemi and Damaris) played guitar and sang
Pato (14 years old) and I tossed the frisbee, sharing the field with our herd of ovejas (sheep)
 And Josalynne and I got to be sisters for a week!
 My mom made tortillas in the ashes of an outdoor fire... which brings me to the food, fresh baked bread and fresh eggs almost every day, it was heavenly
 We crossed this bridge to walk to church that night.  Someone told me in the winter season, with all the rain that is normal, the bridge is often flooded because the creek rises like 4 or 5 feet!
The next day we drove through the countryside to visit a school in a place called Lago Budi, 2hrs away.
 We made good use of the free time allotted to us
 And later huddled close to the fire in the ruka (traditional Mapuche home) because it was FREEZING
 Our classroom to learn about the Mapuche cosmovision and current politics was outside, according to Juan (our director and teacher on this day), as it would have been taught originally.  We were in a place that had rebuilt many Mapuche living conditions specifically for the tourist industry.  It was much colder outside.
 So we had a major cuddle fest on the ride home
 Modernity collided with ancient ways often abruptly in our daily living with the Mapuche...
 And although Chileans came from all walks of life, opinions, differences that seem irreconcilable, patriotism was present everywhere we went... something holds this country together in a way I haven't seen in the US or (in my little time in Buenos Aires) in Argentina
 The next day we went to our school in Chapod... where my brother Pato rocked the Mapuche instruments and dress in a play the 7th and 8th graders put on
 We sang "Lean on Me" as our contribution
 And then taught everyone the Cha Cha slide... between these two things, we felt we had best captured American culture, haha
 And our loving director Roberto quickly embraced the Mapuche spirit (as soon as those kids were out of the costumes he was into them!)
 While we were in Temuco the miners were all rescued.  Everyone watched the news with their families often... my sisters and I discussed how ridiculous the coverage is when miners in Chile are still working in absolutely horrible conditions and thousands have died.  Notwithstanding, it was emotional and wonderful when they were finally freed!
 "Our" cat, who was not loved like the dogs... lived outside the warm door of the house and occasionally created a racket on the tin roof... going to the bathroom in the middle of the night was a battle to keep the cat outside.  Once, at 4AM, I heard him on the roof, so booked it for the bathroom to avoid doorway discussion.  The cat in turn heard me get up and start moving through the house... it was a race accompanied by incredible 4AM banging and clanging of a terrified cat on a tin roof.  I won, and, while sitting on the toilet, watched as the cat struggled and finally fell out of some random hole in the ceiling somewhere, collapsed on the floor, and very dignifiedly resumed his throne between the house and the bathroom shed (pictured below)
We gave presentations about our experiences in Temuco in Juan's ruka around the warm fire, drinking maté
And then we were served the most INCREDIBLE meal I will have in my study abroad time... "Roberto chico" was our Temuco assistant and also is an incredible chef.  He gave me the ingredient lists but, "the recipes are a secret, to do them right, you have to figure them out yourself"
 The boys weren't good at "una foto comica!"
 That night a party occurred in our house with wonderful food, amazing company, and music all the time!  And the kids that played were phenomenal, I wished it could have gone on forever.  After, like always, I stayed up as long as possible drinking maté and chatting with my mom.
On our last day our friends shared music with us
And we shared music with them (especially the boys who incredibly whipped out musical talent... well maybe I should say initiative... on instruments they had never played)
Even Roberto jumped up to perform
 We played soccer, frisbee, and music all afternoon
 And then I went with Cheque (pictured above), his real sister and his "sisters," Jill and Leah (below displaying the fleas they acquired in Chapod), on a beautiful, long walk...
Above and then through the bamboo brush to the waterfall
Up to the water
 To the river, where we skipped rocks... then adventured up a steep hill in the undergrowth, jumped small streams, got mildly muddy and wet, and generally did my favorite thing in the world: random backcountry exploring
 I was in love with Chapod
And I have saved the best for last... the animals... I'm pretty sure piglets are the cutest animals that have ever existed
 The hens that gave us so many fresh eggs
 The geese and chicks whose home was my backyard
And throughout our time in "el campo" (the countryside), two giant volcanoes watched over us.
I plan to spend the majority, if not all, of my independent study project here.  I felt so welcomed and comfortable with my family, with the whole community, and with the place.  So... you'll probably get to see more pictures in a few weeks!  Les quiero mucho!