Hacer Fiaca

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I am haciendo fiaca. That means I’m taking a day to myself to do NOTHING (besides wedding planning, homework, communication, and thinking of course) ❤ It feels so GREAT! ❤

If you want to say “I’m doing nothing” you have to say “estoy haciendo fiaca!”

The Argentine Way #1

As Estadounidenses (People from the United States, for we can’t say Americans because both North and South America consider themselves to be Americans), planning anything from day trips to the mountains or week long treks through Patagonia is incredibly challenging. We are accustomed to finding all the information we need online, buying our plane and bus tickets, and knowing exactly the equipment we will need at least two weeks in advance. Here… no.

Most wilderness tour sites do not have webpages. This means we have to just go and trust that campsites/hostels/transportation will be available to us. This is a scary thing for estadounidenses. But, we’re doing it! It’s crazy!

What I’ve found to be incredibly helpful is to dig through the internet to find other people’s blogs that talk about the places we want to go, for they usually talk about the amenities and how they got around and what time of year they were there. This is a LOT more work… BUT this is the Argentine way.

After more budgeting, we all sadly decided to cancel our backpacking trip to Peru and Machu Picchu, for the flights that we would need are REALLY expensive. On a happier note, we’re thinking that might be our reunion trip in a couple years!

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So what are we doing instead?

We are going to spend holy week in Valle de la Luna (valley of the moon). This is a desert. We are geeking out about how amazing it will be to spend our last days of lent CAMPING in the desert and then to return for Easter Vigil. AHHHHhhh I can’t wait!!!! [PS: the constellations here are different from the Northern Hemisphere!! We get to stargaze and see things that we will never be able to see in the norther hemisphere!! I’ll blog about this later.]

What else are we planning?

We have a break in may in which we will be backpacking in PATAGONIA!!! This will be our biggest trip of the semester. We will be camping 4 nights in the southern Andes mountains, then we will cross the country and camp 3 nights on the ocean. This trip will include BARILOCHE (One of the most beautiful cities in Argentina), Whale watching in Puerto Madryn (a beautiful Peninsula in southern Argentina) and Penguin watching just south of Puerto Madryn!! ❤ ❤

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I’m so thrilled about our group dynamic because it allows us to learn so much about our surroundings. We have an anthropologist, a biologist, international relations (focus on human rights), a language/linguistics teacher (me), and an english/literature major. These different types of wisdom allow us to have such amazing conversations about all that we are seeing in Argentina!

La Bodega Zuccardi (The Vineyard!)

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Vinyards are sacred places. I say this because they hold stories from many beautiful experiences from the hands that have worked its soil and lips that have tasted its fruit. The walls of this beautiful vineyard were painted with the wine itself. The smell as you walk in is of old wine-soaked barrels mixed with a very nice wood. We wandered, admiring the local artists’ works on the walls and followed this with a fabulous wine tasting. We tried a very sweet Moscato, a stronger sweet Moscato which is made to be mixed with other things, and a dry vino tinto (red wine) which was Malbec. AMAZING. I usually prefer nice and flavorful red wines but that first Moscato was INCREDIBLE.

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Then we passed through the space where the grapes are processed and set to ferment and separate. (I don’t know how to describe this process in English… so if I’m using words that aren’t what you would use to describe the process I apologize…) This bodega (vineyard) is considered very modern in their processes, for all of their equipment is of metal and they focus on mass production. However, two steps in their process include manual sorting of grapes in order to select only the best to make the more intensely flavored wines and the more intensely sweeter wines. The following photo is one of my favorites! At an antigua bodega the women would jump in and stomp the fruit with their feet! In this modern bodega they use a nice fancy machine. I just LOVE the color of the grapes!!

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We then had the opportunity to enjoy a wonderfully prepared lunch in the field! We sipped on a fabulous glass of Moscato and wandered through the vineyard embracing its beauty!! ❤

 

Migrations and Charla

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Today was fabulous. I spent about 4 hours in the migrations office working towards my student visa! Luckily, we had a deck of cards on us. I taught everyone how to play old maid. The guys were not too thrilled… but we had to pay attention to the directions from the migrations officers, so I figured something as simple as Old Maid was appropriate for the occasion.

Fingerprints. Passports. Numbers. Signatures. More fingerprints. Directions. Addresses. Firmas. Signatures. Questions. Applications. More signatures. Strange questions about home universities. Old Maid. Passports. Goofy mug shot photo that we took downtown. Coffee was way overdue.

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SO when we finally made it through migrations we wandered to a lovely cafe called “El Oso.” There, we chatted about our religious affiliations and shared our differences and excitements about Lent, Easter, Jabad, Mexican Jesus, and whatever else came up. It was really neat. Between the four of us we represent Catholicism (me), Baptist, Lutheran, and Jewish. We also have Protestant, Evangelical, Agnostic, and Shinto who were not present at the cafe. These backgrounds make for some incredible Bible studies!!!!

We love learning about each other’s faith lives and visit each other’s sacred places. I’ve been to three different Jabads in Argentina which I’ve found to be incredibly interesting. They’ve all been to NUMEROUS Catholic churches with me and have learned so much about the beauty of the Catholic community. I’ve seen the outside of the others’ sacred spaces, and they are very lovely! It’s so neat to have these differences but still be able to have deep conversations about our faith journies. This is something that I wish we could have in the United States. This is quite rare and so beautiful. We care about educating each other so that we are informed about each other’s beliefs.

I’ve learned that people have a very limited understanding of the Catholic community, faith, and practice. They only know what politics and media have told them. Many of them tell me that I’m the first Catholic they’ve seen who is happily devoted to the faith. They are appreciative of my love for the Church and for the people in the church.

It surprises me that people don’t know the Catholic community as a loving, devoted, compassionate, and honest Church. This saddens me… I ought not be the first person they come across to radiate the beauty of the Catholic faith.

Challenges

I’m struggling today.  This weekend I had to become accustomed to the culture,  currency,  language,  and daily schedule in Chile. I had just gotten comfortable with that of Mendoza after having been accustomed to that of Buenos Aires. My entire being is confused.  I’m trying to calculate the currency conversions from argentine pesos to US dollars to Chilean pesos back to argentine pesos and my brain is just a mess.  Also, I’m a little sick because of the drastic altitude difference.  So I’m resting and recuperating this afternoon ♡ Uffda. 

The Education System

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Education is an incredibly interesting topic for discussion here in Mendoza. The structure is the opposite of the United States: Private schools, which are all religiously affiliated (Catholic), are incredibly expensive while the quality of education is poor, Public schools are FREE and the quality of education is EXCEPTIONAL.

Liberal arts do not exist in South America. All students are expected to choose a course of specialization at a very early age. They begin learning about their specialization in high school. For example, some choose negocios (business), economics, engineering, public health, arts and designs, or philosophy. Many more exist.

On the flip-side, teachers do not have a great experience. It is clearly a vocation, for the pay is incredibly minimal and the support system is nonexistent. It’s very normal to have teacher strikes 1 or 2 times a week. This week we’ve had 3 days of teacher strikes! The universities were shut down and we were not able to attend class. Some students told their parents in the US about this and their parents responded by saying, “What the &*$% am I paying for if you’re never in class!?!?”

Teachers in the private schools are paid even worse, which is why the quality of education is so poor. Teachers are unwilling to work more than they need to.

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My experience with the education system has been surprising. I go to the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo. I have been well prepared to engage in the prestigious school that I selected. It is like the Harvard of South America. Expectations are incredibly high and materials are challenging. The first exam that I took was SOOO difficult. I studied all weekend, although from my photos on FB it may look like I did not spend ANY time studying. I promise I studied for hours. My classes don’t “officially” start until April. We are in the process of “shopping” which means you can sit-in for any class and with any professor that you’d like to see if it’s something you’d prefer to register for. I spent ten minutes in the Calculus class and decided that it’s DEFINITELY not my cup of tea. I’ll be taking that in English when I return to the United States…

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Family dynamic

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I have the wonderful opportunity to observe the dynamic of a large family in Mendoza. I have 4 siblings and two parents who are still married. The father works all day; he comes home for a ciesta and to pass time with the family and then returns to work at night. The mother stays in the house cooking and cleaning for the family. She works from home as well in the same business as the father. They work together to complete work projects. The older two brothers are 29 and 25, both have graduated with exceptional accomplishments. The oldest is a professional musician. The second oldest is an engineer. They still live at home and are involved in serious relationships. This is very typical in Mendoza. Children stay in their parents’ homes until they are ready to wed. The oldest just bought a nice plot of land in a private neighborhood where he plans to build a house for him and his girlfriend. Whether or not they will wed is unclear. Even though Catholocism is the dominant religion and teaching of Argentina, the common understanding is that marriage is no longer necessary to cohabit (is that the word in English?) Personally, I think this understanding comes from the growing human rights movement about women’s health, gay marriage, and pro-choice. It’s incredibly interesting. The younger two are young women, 23 and 16. Both are heavily feminist and active in their political organizations. The older  is paid 70% less than the average man doing the same work; that is if she is paid on time which never happens. The youngest is still in high school and works very hard at her specialized career choice. I will discuss the education system in another post.

We spend quite a bit of time together when we are all in one place at the same time. We drink mate and discuss important political events that are happening. We discuss the different political movements and various perspectives people can have about each movement. We also discuss things like sports, especially the famous soccer teams. We watch the soccer games on TV religiously! It’s a blast. I enjoy watching my host brothers scream at the TV when something goes wrong. We have weekly family reunions where we BBQ. The men cook for the women while the women chat, paint nails, do projects, swim in the pool. It’s a day of rest for everyone.

 

One month marker

I cannot believe that it’s already been a month! It seems that I only arrived last week in Argentina. It is incredibly difficult to describe all that has happened. Every little experiences has made an impact on how I view the world and how I choose to live. I’ve been exposed to the beauty of la naturaleza, the corruption of a complicated gobierno, the effects of a drastic inflation, the misery of la pobreza, and the charm of a distinct culture and simple living. All of this will change my life forever.

 

Café con leche

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I wake up in the morning looking forward to my “me” time. This really is the only time during the day that I get to spend thinking and reflecting about all of the wonderful experiences that I’ve had. My mind is peaceful, the air is chilled, and my instant creamy coffee is nice and warm between my hands. I always have medialunas (croissants) with Dulce de Leche and sometimes frosted flakes cereal to go with it. I love to sit on the patio and listen to the exotic bird calls and stray dogs that run through the streets.

Today I read from my Lent passages and read through relevant parts of my Spanish Bible. Reading through my Bible helps me to become more and more fluent as a Spanish speaker. However, I’m hoping that I’m not using the old Spanish in my everyday vocabulary.