A Calm June

July 1rst 2011

And another month flies by me. Another month of fun really, but also a busy month with everything I have had to hand in and do for school. It’s funny because although my grades do not even count in my GPA, and all I need really is a pass, they are still important and I do want more than just a passing grade. I guess at first I thought I was just grade-driven, competitive with myself and wanted to do good, but now I realize that it’s more than that. If I am going to do something, I don’t just want to do it well, but I want to give it the best I can. I think that this whole semester abroad, along with the travels, meeting new people and integrating myself into another culture has been an amazing experience. I really do encourage any of you that have a little bit of a taste for the experience to fulfill it because really, now is the time to do it and it really is great.

We had an asado last night for to say“Goodbye house” with some friends, a complete success it was great! Today I am moving out of my house and into my friend Mila’s apartment until I finish school. I have one paper and two orals left this week, and absolutely no will to do anything today. One of the orals requires me reading two novels so its going to be me+book/laptop+coffee/mate/hot chocolate. I also have to figure out what my plans are for the month of July and until I meet Cass in Nicaragua in August. So the plan is to meet her in central America and then come back to Cordoba by December to fly back home. Wow. December.

Travel wise this month was a little quieter than May, not hard to beat there because I was barely around in May. I took a weekend and went to Santa Fe to visit my friend Laurianne. We had a great time chatting, walking around the city, going to bars and hanging out. Everyone says that Santa Fe is not nice and boring but I kind of liked it. It’s quiet it’s not ugly at all, you can go hang out by the water.. Then another weekend I went to the hills with Facu. Places like Mina Clavero, San Javier and Merlo are really nice and are really different from the summer. It is much quieter and that, I really like. But it’s colder. Okay so not Canada cold, but still, it’s cold. I know its weird the Canadian complaining about -4 degrees…but I think that the main difference here is that the isolation in houses is so bad, and glass windows or doors are so thin that the hot air just goes out and the cold air comes in. So its not like aw I want to stay in my house and not go out because of the cold because really the difference is not that great. Ahahaha.

So anyways, this is definitely my shortest post yet, but really nothing much to add about June, busy with school and just hanging out really.

I hope summer in Montreal, or wherever you are has been treating you nicely,

Also, Happy Canada Day!!

O May, O May!

May 28th 2011

O May, O May! Where have you gone thou May? I don’ know! It has been so busy with crazy stories, either good or bad that I do not even know where to start this month’s update! So asides from the normal monthly fun times which include food and drinking, or the more serious lets go to class stuff, I also had friends visiting and crashing at my place which was nice. However, that eventually led to the fabulous events of me fighting with my landlord for a week right before my brother arrived. I basically left home to have a landlord worst than my own parents (actually my parents rock so I can’t even say that). He is a control freak. He does not live with me and I have to let him know if I want to cook with friends, I cannot have people over (to sleep) and if I do they have to pay (the same price as a hostel? Wtf? I had to fight for my brother to stay and not pay!) and ya no sleepovers even if its in my room. He even said that applied to boyfriends. OH BOY. Ahahaha. I just laughed and told him that whatever happened in my room was none of his business…but he tells me a bunch of bullshit because I am foreign and he tells me I don’t understand etc etc. But I informed myself and he does A LOT of illegal stuff….INCLUDING having a key to my room and he used it to go in while I wasn’t there which just did it. He says I provoked him to do it…then I wanted to leave but he wouldn’t let me, and he manipulated the situation with money by not giving back my half of the month. So I gave him my one month’s notice I also knew I would not be around much so it was easier to give us both time.

It is now the 28th and I am in a bus back to Cordoba. I have been gone for over a week and probably have to move out the day my brother leaves, oh and go to school that day too ahahaha…move out where? Not too sure yet! I am pretty sure he will reduce my rent and ask me to stay because he won’t have anyone else to rent the room to. As I gave my month’s notice, his only employee (real estate business) quit and his wife gave him divorce papers. Hmmmm…wonder who the problem is here? So that was that. My brother finallyyyyy arrived to Argentina on May 18th. It was SOOOOOO awesome and great to see him again. I think that for the next few days I repeated at least 10 times that I couldn’t believe he was here, that it was so crazy he was in Argentina with me etc etc.

So he got here the Wednesday, we had a great time and dinner and the next day, Thursday, I skipped part of my last class and we hoped onto a bus to Puerto Madryn. Wonderful 22h bus to Patagonia. But soooooooooo worth it. We were staying at a friend’s friend’s house and they were so nice and welcoming. We cooked them dinner on the first night. They did not speak English, one of them a little, and so there was a mixture of Spanish, English and sign language happening as well as a lot of translating on my part. I was impressed on how my brother was able to communicate with people fairly quickly. He took a Spanish class so that for sure was a lot of help.

We chose Puerto Madryn for the diving. On the Saturday we did three dives, one being with sealions. I do not even know how to describe the experience…we were 45 minutes under water, we were in a natural reserve and no one else was there so there were about 40 sealions, mainly younger ones, all around us. At first they would come and go, but then after a while they would stay with us and swim around, play with us and even bite our fists when we would put them out. (bite like little puppies, it doesn’t hurt!). Mich even hugged one! Time under water flew by! It was definitely an amazing experience! The rest of the weekend was an Argentinean introduction for the little brother: folklore music, mate, asado and fernet were all in the program. We had mate and breakfast on the port on the Sunday and soon enough we had to sadly head back to Cordoba. Upon return, I had a three day unlucky strike. We got back the Tuesday morning, and a few hours later I completely burn my hand wrist and part of my arm with boiling water. Second degree burn which is still not completely healed, I think its going to scar pretty bad too. Then at night I ate bad seafood and all day Wednesday I had an indigestion. No details needed here I felt like crap and didn’t go to class. Then on the Thursday, the day before we left for Chile, I forget my leather jacket in drawing class and then realize that my house keys are in it. Still have not found it but I think I know who has it, although I do not know her name (great).

So we leave for Chile. Our first destination was to be Valparaiso on the coast. Upon arrival to Santiago, all over the news is the horror of the manifestations and people recommended we do not go. So we head to a place about 20 minutes away called Vina del Mar. It was also on the coast and we walked around that night. The next day we took a bus to Valparaiso and explored the city all day long. It is amazing, we both loved it. The streets of the city are a museum, the walls are filled with beautiful graffitis and street art. We also visited one of Pablo Neruda’s houses which is on one of the main hills. That night we wanted to take an overnight bus to La Serena, but when we got to the station, the buses were full. It was Sunday and because of the protests, everyone from other cities were going back home…soo we had to leave the next day. Our next destination was our next diving destination called: Punta de Choros. From la Serena, it was a little hard to get there. We were able to get a ride in a van with locals and the landscape was just breath taking. We drove along the Pacific coast and saw the sunset through the mountains. Finally I think about 3hs later we get to our little apartment on the beach. It was night time so it was only the next morning we saw where we were. WOW. WOW. WOW. We did 3 dives there. The water was pretty cold but soooo clear and we saw some nice underwater wonders. The third dive on the second day wasn’t as pleasant for Mich because he had eaten empanadas the night before and now it was his turn to get an indigestion! After the dive, we went back to la Serena and had to decide where to go. He was feeling like crap, there were no buses to San Juan in Argentina and we needed to decide. Finally we took a bus to Santiago and then another to Mendoza and another to San Juan. Very long but we paid a little more for the overnight bus to be able to sleep. We got to the hostel in San Juan and met 3 frenchies who had rented a car to go to the Valle de la Luna and Talampaya parks. They had 2 seats left in the car and invited us to join, so we did. We had a blast in the car, we could stop whenever we wanted to take pictures, we had a picnic, and headed to Talampaya, which is a canyon. We got there and there were only 4 places left on the bus and they wouldn’t let us go 5 people so we were only able to do half of the circuit. However the guide was really nice and the place was still really impressive. The canyon is 4km long and 150m high. The earth is red and sometimes you see shades of green or yellow depending on the minerals. We watched the sun go down in the canyon as well and headed to a hostel for the night. We got up pretty early this morning to go see the other side of the park called Valle de la Luna. It was a little rainy but we decided to go check it out anyways. However, the road got worst on our way there and there was so much fog that we decided not to pay to go in and see nothing. We were all disappointed to not be able to see, especially that the previous day was so nice and the sky was clear at night, we could see soooo many stars. So we headed back to San Juan. We still had a great time, roadtrip, with great funny people and saw some beautiful landscapes.

So today, a few hours ago, my little bro left for Canada. I am sad but enjoyed every single moment with him during the last 3 weeks. I still have to decide if I am moving out or not (I was able to negotiate with the landlord and since I only have a month and a bit left I might stay..) and I am completely swamped with school work. It seems like I always try to keep my posts short, but this month so much was happening that it’s the longest so far. I really appreciate anyone who takes the time to read it all.

I hope the summer back home is nicer than it was a few weeks ago (I heard there was lots of rain)

A Month in a Life

May 2nd 2011

Well well well, it seems like its already time for another monthly update! HOLY CRAP ITS MAY! So I am actually procrastinating on a paper I started yesterday…so instead of writing that I am writing this. I am still writing though right? And I mean, this couuuuld be considered literature….but I do not think the professor is expecting this, in English, and absolutely not relevant to the Argentinean Literature. So the book he made us read is 600 pages. Yes 600 pages of Argentinean literature with a national Spanish which includes expressions that don’t even appear in the dictionary. Great. I read half…well almost half..which is okkk…considering I linked it with Plato’s Symposium somehow and it made sense to the professor…sooo…3 pages on that, one page left. But this first.

Otherwise classes are going fine, I am really into my drawing class and absolutely love it. My other seminars are going well also, so far. The only problem with the seminars is that I do not really get an evaluation until I write a final paper which is no pressure at all. Ah. The professors are all really nice to me and also helpful so it’s okay. (yay! Gotta love the accent! It does come in handy once in a while actually :p)

Speaking of my accent, apparently it has gotten better and my Rs do not sound tooooo French, well, in certain words. Anyways we were going out to the club the other night, and we were on the list but the guy would not let us in and we had to cue. So Mila tells me to just go and talk to him. So I go up to this huge Argentinean guy and I’m like: Hi! I was just wondering if my friend and I have to do the lineup because we are on the list. Ahahaha. Then he asks me on who’s list, I tell him. He looks at me, looks at my friend and he let us in. Bam. First success.

The month of April has actually flown by pretty fast, I am sure back at home as well, finals are always busy times! Mid April I took the train to Buenos Aires to visit my friends Olle and Vera. The train here is not used very frequently, it only leaves on certain days and times and you have to book it at least two weeks in advance because it is so cheap. Normally buses are the best way to get around in Argentina: the seats almost fully recline, they have tvs and hot meals..I have even gotten my own little bottle of wine on some rides! The return ticket for the capital is about 400 pesos. My train cost me 48 pesos (for my return ticket). That is about 12$CAD. It was really cheap, but damn it was a shit ride! Ahaha. The train stalled a few times, it was pretty shacky and well…really uncomfortable. What was awesome about that ride was the elderly folks I met on it. Ahahaha yes that is right. An elderly couple shared their mate and homemade cake and stories with me. The man, who is 71 years young, runs and wins marathons in Argentina! He was on national television and everything! They were really cute.

So I finally arrive to Buenos Aires and I go to Olle’s apartment. After catching up a bit and drinking mate, he went to school and I went downtown to walk around and shop. That day, a Monday, the 18th of April, was quite a day. With only two hours of sleep and one day of walking around, I finally try and buy converse and my card is declined in 4 different banks as well as the store`s paying system. I end up spending the next 2hours angry and crying (yes I wouldn`t usually but the tiredness at this point had reached its limits ahaha) on the phone with Mastercard, who’s employee misunderstood me during my last call and blocked my card (for no reason!). But they couldn’t unblock it (for some other reason!). I ended up getting a cash advance through western union the next day (because I had no debit card with me, nice one Dania.). The next few days were grey and rainy and also Easter holidays. There was literally no one downtown. To the point that we took the bikes out and were riding in the middle of the streets ahaha. I went to a few museums, met up with Vera, we had lasagna night with Olle`s Chilean housemates and all hung out until early in the morning just talking, listen to music and painting. The Saturday I was heading off to Rosario for a couchsurfing party I had seen on the site. It was a feijoada (Brazilian girl making typical YUMMMYYY food!) Many people came, it was a great success! I did meet a guy there who happened to be from Cordoba and offered me a ride back (yay no train!). And for those who are probably thinking or wondering, yes I have seen him again since.

So it is fall now, and well being Canadian, I should not be worried about the winter here because it does not go down to -30. However, it is DAMN COLD ANYWAY! It was I think 2 degrees when I left for errands this morning. 2 degrees…is this not SOUTH America?!? Ahaha. Wow. Probably should not be complaining at all to you guys considering I pretty much missed winter back at home…but still. Just letting you all know. Ahaha.

So to end the month in the best way EVER, I got the wonderful news a few days ago that my little brother has booked a plane and is coming to Argentina on May 10th and staying for THREE WEEKS!! I am soooo happy that I get to see him pretty much half way through my time away from home. Plus, we have a week break in May which will allow us to hit the road together on a nice adventure!

So definitely will be updating again! It seems as though the month of May will be filled with stories, adventures and maybe not so much school? Ahaha funny how I always try and keep these notes short…anyway

I hope all is well with you all back at home, that your semesters went well and that your summers will start off even better!

And….School and Life in Argentina start!

April 6th 2011

Wow, so it was already a month ago that I last wrote an update and it seems like it was just recently! I have a 2hour break before heading back to school for my last class of the day so I decided to take this time to answer emails and update you all on the last few (crazy and busy) weeks.

Actually, let’s start with what I am here for: school. The first two and a half weeks I basically ran around campus trying to find courses that fit in my schedule and that I thought Concordia would give me credits for. I had to go to class, get course outlines, gather paperwork and decide which ones I wanted, did not want etc. Many times people did not know how to help me or where I needed to go for registration or stamps or whatever so it was quite something. Oh and barely anything is online, not like Concordia or McGill or UofO. I managed pretty well since when I sent to Concordia the courses I wanted (as my first choices because I had gone to about 9 courses and had back up plans ehehe), they were accepted right away. As a bonus, I managed to get Fridays AND Mondays off. (YAHOOO!!!)

However, my Thursday (which is today) is quite brutal: I have drawing class from 8h30am-1pm, then Teaching of the Spanish Language from 1pm-4pm a 2 hour break and Argentinean Literature III from 6pm-8pm. BUT can’t complain at all J The classes are a little difficult, there are a tons of readings and I am a turtle and keep the English-Spanish dictionary not too far ahaha. Students are all really nice, they usually assume I am Argentinean but as soon as I speak they give me a huge smile and ask me where I am from. Then they usually just bombard me of questions like when I got here, how long I am staying, which part of Canada I am from etc etc! Studying abroad is not too different from back at home, and I think that is mainly because I was studying Spanish at Concordia. I feel like the language is not a problem, the expressions they have is maybe another thing but in the classroom I have no trouble following at all and I have even started participating a little. However, even though it is my last semester of university (still don’t realize it yet, or it is denial), I sometimes feel like it is my first just because I do not know anyone. Because I am taking classes from different faculties, I usually don’t have people in more than one of my classes either. However, I am not too worried about that, everyone is really nice and I still do enjoy going to class, and it’s only the beginning!

Those of you who know me well, know that I am a coffee lover (even brought my Italian mini espresso machine here, thanks mom!) and a tea lover. The typical “mate” tea is very common in Argentina and soooo good! I am actually drinking it right now! The leaves, which come from the Yerba mate tree are put in a special cup (which you can buy and comes in leather, metal, ceramic, porcelaine…) and you drink it through a metal straw. This straw has small holes at the bottom (instead of the usual big hole) that function as a filter and the part which you drink it from is flat, not round as we know it. You can drink it just like that, which makes it bitterer, or you can add sugar to it. Some people even add other herbs like mint for example. You see people carrying their thermos and their mate everywhere: at work, in parks, even in my classes and they pass it around among their friends or even with the professor! They even have vending machines where you put a coin and you can fill up your thermos with hot water!

If you look through the pictures I have been posting, there has been some partying, get togethers, asados (typical barbecues) and lots of fun! I have started to meet some great people and hanging out with friends too J. I even worked at the bar for a private party with my housemate! It was really fun and went by soooo fast. We both did not have watches and when we checked the time it was 7am!! Everything here is later, they have supper way to late to my taste, but I still end up eating late ahaha, they party and go out late too, usually not 1-2am. Last week, a Swiss couple I met in Patagonia came to visit me. They stayed at my house for 2 nights and we went to a National Park called Quebrada del Condorito, just outside of Cordoba, where you go hiking and can Condor watch. Saw a bunch but they were far so no pictures! However, we did see a little grass snake and lots of nice birds!

They have this type of hot dog that you can buy on the streets, in parks that is really good too! We made “choripan” at the house twice (so they might have been even better than the street ones I don’t know ehehe) The bread you use is baguette, and the sausage is called a chorizo, you add tomatoes, lettuce, hot peppers and this condiment they make called chimichurri which is really good too and obviously the usual ketchup mayo if you want! That with a Fernet con Coca and you are set! Fernet is a herb-based digestive drink made with saffron, camomile, rhubarb, among others. It is very strong, so normally it is mixed with Coke. And also, it can be quite rough if drunk in large quantities. Ahaha. (Actually, if anyone remembers to check if they sell it at the LCBO or SAQ? Let me know! Buy it and try it! Ahaha)

Also, as of April 15th I thought I would be an illegal immigrant because it is when my tourist visa expires. At first, migrations could only see me in June, which was completely ridiculous for a visa until September and with classes and finals ending in July ahaha. So the University changed my date and I get to go see them next week bright and early at 7am on April 12th. (not one day of illegalness, pas pire!) On Tuesday I booked my train for Buenos Aires for Semana Santa (Easter!) and so I will be one week in that area very soon!

And so, next month I will have that to tell you all about that.

But for now, I wish you all good luck with the end of your semesters and I also thank those of you who take the time to read about my experience!

Argentinean Adventure

March 2nd 2011

Goodmorning everyone!

So my parents left Argentina this morning. I woke up early at the hotel and had breakfast with them before they took their cab to the airport. Half of the day yesterday was spent buying a few things for my new place, among other things a new mattress and pillow, gracieusite des parents, since the ones the landlord had brought in for me were…ummm lets just say old, smelly and kinda gross ahaha. My mom chose the house, and the room here. I live with a girl named Fabianna. She is 37 and was just recently divorced. She has 4 daughters but they are with the father right now…and a guy named Ugo who is in medical school. They both seem really really nice and speak no English, which is perfect for my Spanish!

So I sit in my new room right now, which has amazing daylight, a new mattress and pillow still in their plastic, my open suitcase and several other bags everywhere; it’s a mess and today is cleaning and organizing day ahaha. Oh boy. Its only 8:30. ahahaha

But I have decided to first update you all back home on the last month I have spent in Argentina.

The Sunday I was meant to leave was spent: sleeping (due to drinking the night before ahaha), hanging out by the river with a bunch of people from Villa Maria (1h30 outside of Cordoba city) and nearly missing the bus to my first destination: Puerto Madryn. My transfer bus was 2hs late and so finally at 3am I get onto the next long bus to the eastern coast. I spent the next few days diving (yes with a hot Argentinean ahahaha) and visiting the Natural Park called the Peninsula Valdes, where I got to see sea lions, penguins, guanacos and different birds all in their natural habitat. On the bus from Puerto Madryn down, I met an Austrian chick called Vera, and little did I know she would be my travel buddy from then on. We got along amazingly and traveling together was really great.

My second stop was el Calafate, which is very south and where the famous Perito Moreno glacier is. This glacier is the only one in the world that produces as much ice as it looses. I didn’t really like this town, mainly because of the touristy Mont Tremblant style ambience, but bigger, more expensive and worst ahaha. This was near my birthday. That night I did not do anything actually, because Vera and I had booked a ice trekking day on the glacier the next day and had to leave at 7am. However, that nightttttttttttt was a very drunken night with some Israelis we had met on the bus and did the trek with also. We left the next day because there was not that much else to do and the other tours were quite expensive. So we decided to go to the newest town in Argentina called El Chalten, where the Fitz Roy glacier is and all the trekking can be done on your own, we stayed for about 4-5 days due to the first day being very windy, cold and rainy. Vera and I split at this point, as I left to Bariloche. However, this 30hour bus was 3hours late and I ended up getting off at el Bolson instead because I was just sick of being on the stupid bus. The ride was mainly on unpaved road et j’en avait mare. LOL. I met this guy on the bus and so we got off in this hippie village and found the campground and put the tents up at 2am lol. We didn’t do much here, there was a huge market, lots of good foods, jams, arts etc. After two days, we hitched a ride to Bariloche. The man who picked us up did not speak English so I did all the talking. He was a sweetheart, really. He had gone to vetenarian school and told me he used to hitch to university everyday and so when he sees people hitching rides that don’t look sketchy he picks them up. He is on the road a lot because he works for the ministry of agriculture and has to go to farms. Bariloche is a pretty big town but it is by a huge lake and its surrounded by mountains. The area is called the Lake District but it is still considered Southern Argentina. Here I met up with Vera again and we rented a car with 3 guys and did the 7 lakes route, which is beautiful, yes it has 7 lakes and lots of mountains ahaha. There is a tons of skiing here during the winter (yay!!), amazing chocolates and lots of camping. Unfortunately, this is all I did here because I had to meet my parents in Mendoza on the 24th of February. So Vera and I hopped on the bus. The night of the 24th, my parents finally arrived. They were tired, but being in Mendoza we still drank 2 bottles of wine and ate some appetizers. The next day, we visited a bodega (where they make wine) and had lunch there. Ruca Malen had a 5 course meal with 6 different wines to accompany it. I think it might have been the best meal of my life, except for moms food of course ahahaha. The next day as well we visited WineLand. The first place we went to was called O’Fournier and the winery had very high techonology and used gravity rather than pumps for their wine. The place is only 6 years old but it will definitely be HUGE. Keep your eyes open and SAQ or LCBO for their wine ahaha. The architects that build it won awards and apparently their kitchen as well. Had we known, because the next place we went to was a complete disappointment. Well I ended up sick and did not even eat and my mom returned her meal to get something else and my dad only ate half of his. This was a 5 course meal as well, with their top wine, but I guess we had something amazing the day because and so all around it was not great. After paying for the meal, my dad asks if we can visit the place and they wanted to charge us again and told us to catch up with the group that had already started the tour, so we just left. Two days ago we came to Cordoba, I showed my parents the city, we ate very well, talked and spent time together and yesterday we got me a little more set up in my new place.

I tried to keep this short and sweet but realized its quite long, so for now, this is the update that I have. As for what is to come, well for today, cleaning, tomorrow maybe finding curtains, and organizing everything for university because I have not yet opened the documents they sent me…oh and starting work and maybe I should go to the ministry and get my visa,…ummm…ya that shit might be expiring soon…ahaha. Hopefully they don’t kick me out!

So that’s all for now,

More to come soon!

Travel and Lifestyle