March 5, 2017
“Ve la vida como un aprendizaje de experiencia continuo.”
“View life as a continuous learning experience.” Denis Waitley
It’s so difficult to believe that yesterday marked the fourth week of my study abroad experience here in Argentina. It doesn’t seem like I’ve been here for that long and yet, I’ve learned so much between then and now. In my last post, I explained the significance of accepting cultural differences and practices with a positive outlook in order to make the most out of a study abroad experience. While it’s very important to embrace these distinctions, since February 11, I have noted three main characteristics that I either will not get used to at all during my stay here or will take a lot of time for me to get accustomed to:
1. Staying out late- (will not get used to at all) The definition of staying out late in Argentina is nowhere close to being equivalent to what I see in the United States. I’m not a party person at all, but according to what I hear on Susquehanna University’s campus, a lot of students enjoy nightlife until at least 2:00-3:00 A.M. I may be wrong, but that’s what I hear the majority of the time. My host brother was telling my roommate and I that nightlife in Argentina begins at around 11:00 P.M until around 5:00 A.M. But sometimes many people, especially the youth, stay out until 7:00 A.M the next morning and sleep for the majority of the day. I can honestly say, that my body would not be able to handle that. (haha) I’m naturally a morning person, not a night owl. In fact, before I fell asleep last night, I heard music blasting while someone was singing in a microphone. At around 6:00 A.M this morning, I woke up to the same tune of music and the same singing voice!
2. Stray dogs in the streets (will take time to get accustomed to)- When I first arrived at the airport in Córdoba, Argentina, I was a bit confused when I saw a dog sitting near the plane with apparently no owner. As my host family drove me to their place of residence for the first time, I saw even more stray dogs roaming around the streets! Please know, that I have nothing against dogs or pets in general, but I think that stray dogs running around in the streets is not beneficial for the health of residents who live in the area. Every day when I walk to the university, I look in disgust at the excrements all over the ground and dogs eating from spilled trash cans. Many times even, some dogs come inside the university to sit in on classes. Let’s just be honest here, I wouldn’t want a stray dog sitting next to me in class.
3. Paying for toilet paper (will not get used to at all)- This is actually where the series of learning experiences began for me. The rest, I will explain later on in this blog entry. Last weekend, my roommate and I had just arrived in the bus terminal located in the center of the city. We were looking forward to meeting another friend from the program to accompany us on our day excursion to Alta Gracia (located an hour away within the province of Córdoba.) I wanted to use the restroom before boarding the bus so I went to the nearest ladies bathroom. When I entered, there was a woman sitting at a desk with money in a container. At first, I didn’t know why she was there and figured that she was a janitor cleaning up the bathroom. I went into one of the stalls and noticed that there was no toilet paper. So I came out and expressed my concern about there being no toilet paper to the lady sitting at the desk. She told me that I had to pay for toilet paper!! I continued to question her to make sure that I clearly understood everything that she was saying to me in Spanish. After minutes of enquiring about this, I found out that she wouldn’t give me toilet paper unless I paid her. I looked at my roommate standing there in disbelief and we left without saying a word. There was no way I was wasting my money on buying toilet paper in the bathroom! I was willing to wait. Later on, my host family told me that people in the city do this in order to make more money, especially in the bus terminals. Obviously, this would be considered illegal in the United States. So I guess it’s time to keep an extra role of toilet paper in my purse.
During my first week here, I have to admit that I was a little intimidated with the thought of riding the bus to get from one place to the other. In the U.S, I enjoy driving everywhere I go because it’s so convenient and I don’t have to wait at a bus stop for twenty to thirty minutes! However, seeing that the bus is the principal form of transportation in Argentina, I knew that eventually, I would have to learn the bus system. I brought a bus card, (known here as a red bus card) put money on it and rode it for the first time with my roommate on our way back home from the mall. Every time I ride the bus, the way that people drive here similar to Mario Karts, makes me have to hold on for dear life to the rails inside the bus if I’m standing up.
Last week, since it was scorching hot, instead of walking, Maggie and I agreed that we take the bus to get back home. We were so confident and proud of the way we had learned the bus system so quickly (or so we thought). When we boarded the bus at around 5:30 P.M , we were expecting about a ten minute ride back to the house. After twenty-minutes passed by, we were beginning to get worried. People were getting on and off the bus and our surroundings were beginning to look unfamiliar. When about thirty minutes went by, we came to the realization that we took the wrong bus. I was tired, hungry, hot and very uncomfortable on that packed bus that had us squeezed together like sardines. (I really think that the buses should have a limit to how many people they can board at a time. It can be hard to breathe with the combination of the heat and the high number of passengers aboard) My roommate and I ended up staying on that same bus for three hours. Thankfully, the driver didn’t kick us off the bus to fend for ourselves when he made his last stop. When we kindly told him where we needed to be, he drove us all the way back to our desired location near the house. As nighttime approached, so many thoughts were running through my mind on that bus ride. What if we came home to find police cars surrounding the house with a crying host mother in the driveway? We had no way of getting in contact with her on that long bus ride home. (I know that may seem dramatic, but if I was a host mother and the students that I were responsible for had not returned home or called me to let me know where they were, I think I would call for help) In the long run, my host mother did not express any worry or concern when we returned home at around 9:00 P.M that evening. For me, riding that bus for three hours was nowhere near being a waste of time. Instead, I view it as yet another learning experience on one of my many travel journeys. How can you learn effectively if you fail to make mistakes along the way?
This past weekend, my roommate and a couple more people from the Spanish Studies Abroad program took a trip to Carlos Paz, a beautiful city that’s similar to a beach resort in the northern province of Córdoba. People who are rich and famous would live in a city such as this. The houses, along with the beaches, are full of splendor. The variety of architecture on the houses are truly luxurious and give away the richness of the town. I can see myself having a summer house over there! As I was sitting on the sand with my book in my hand, I marveled at the fact that within these short couple of weeks, I’ve learned so much through experience and yet, there’s still so much more to discover! Of course, the unknown can be scary, but each day, there’s always something new unfolding, which I have found out, gives me joy when I travel.