April 20, 2017
“El viaje le hace una modesta. Ves tanto el lugar pequeño que ocupas en el mundo”
“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world” Gustave Flaubert
Hola again to all of my readers! I know that I just posted a blog update four days ago, but seeing that I’m already approaching the halfway mark of my study abroad experience, I have some really important information to share! I’m also going to be traveling outside of the province of Córdoba, Argentina for the entire weekend to Mendoza and won’t be back until next week. So I don’t want you all to be too worried. This blog is mainly dedicated to anyone considering traveling to Argentina in the near future, but even if you are not, you are still encouraged and welcome to read on.
Ever since I was a little child, language and travel have always fascinated me. I would always dream of the day where I would finally be able to speak Spanish and other languages nearly 24/7 and be immersed in a culture that is different from my own. And now, I’m actually living that dream! But, if I can put this in correct words, let’s just say, living abroad is definitely not always convenient or comfortable. Before coming to Argentina, I was way too excited to even think about the inconveniences or adjustments that I would have to make once arriving here. Within the first week, I was faced with these inconveniences and discomfort and realized that if I wanted to survive here for the next five months or so, I had no other choice but to adjust and comply to what this new environment was throwing at me. Below, I have a list of four things that I considered inconvenient or uncomfortable at first, but then as time went on, I gradually learned to adjust.
1. Weather- I advise anyone wanting to travel abroad to Argentina to bring a rain coat and NOT a winter coat. I made the mistake of bringing my huge winter snow coat because I thought the temperatures were going to reach freezing. From what I have experienced and heard so far, that’s definitely not going to happen, even in midwinter because it never gets too cold here. The province of Córdoba receives a lot more rain and barely any snow. I knew I had to buy a new raincoat because it definitely wasn’t comfortable carrying an umbrella with no coat on during a cold rainy day. The weather is also so unpredictable! One minute, it can seem like it’s going to rain, in which many times it actually does, and within the next hour, there are absolutely no clouds in the sky. I took the picture below early Monday morning of what “seemed to be” rain clouds. It didn’t actually rain at all that entire day (it remained cloudy though so it was very suspenseful) so I’m thankful I didn’t wear my rain boots. It’s a struggle to figure out what to wear when the sky looks like that! I remember one morning, it was absolutely gorgeous outside and I didn’t even bother bringing my umbrella. Later on in the day, as I was walking back home, the rain clouds appeared out of nowhere and I ended up getting drenched within minutes. Thankfully, my old roommate Maggie had her umbrella so we were able to share. If there’s one thing I learned about living in Argentina, it’s to ALWAYS have an umbrella with me if I’m out and about and/ or a raincoat if the temperatures begin to drop.
2. Looks- Obviously, if you’re walking around with a group of students speaking English in South America, people will probably view you as a foreigner. It’s inconceivable to even try to count the amount of stares I have received on the streets from the very moment I stepped off the plane here. I know it has a lot to do with the way I dress. Due to religious reasons, whenever I’m in public, I keep my head covered with a scarf or a hat and never wear pants or extremely high heels. (Like the ones shown in the picture in my other blog entry where I elaborated on fashion) Of course, I’m not ashamed of the way that I dress and everyday, I walk with my head held high on the streets, proud to represent not only the United States, but what I wholeheartedly believe in. However, for the first couple of weeks, the stares made me feel really uncomfortable. It was as if they knew and still know that I am “different.” Numerous times, I have received the well-known question, “¿De dónde sos? (where are you from?) from strangers that I have encountered, which is very typical here as well. Cordobeses (Argentines from the province of Córdoba) are very curious individuals who always want to learn about a foreign person’s origins.
For anyone considering wanting to travel to any foreign country, not just Argentina, here are two pieces of advices from me to you. The principal purpose of studying abroad is to immerse yourself in the culture and language and learn to become acquainted with customs that are different from what you are used to. If your goal is to “blend” in with the native people, I advise you (back to packing tips) to not pack any type of clothing that would make people automatically assume that you are American because then, you can be seen as a target. This includes baseball caps with the team logo engraved on it, a shirt with the American flag on it, etc.Of course, the way I dress makes it easier for me to be seen as a foreigner. (I have no problem with that) But despite that, I have received questions and comments from people who thought I was from Brazil and Colombia! My second piece of advice is to feel proud when sharing your cultural heritage to people in a foreign country. As much as you want to learn about other people who live there, they want to learn just as much about you too!
3. Diet- If you know me well enough, I take eating healthy very seriously and try to incorporate as many clean foods as I can into my daily eating routine. Of course, I cheat sometimes with dairy free ice-cream or gluten free sweet desserts here and there, but most of the time, I’m able to discipline myself well. Before coming here to South America, I was aware that pork, beef and all types of red meat was and still is a key component of Argentine cuisine and that people eat it VERY frequently. I even read a news article about some Argentines who said that they don’t mind dying from eating too much red meat. However, one of the things that I had to get accustomed to, specifically when I moved in with my second host family, was eating it almost EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. Back at home, my family and I limit our red meat intake and consume mostly seafood and fresh poultry in order to get an adequate amount of protein. Meat in general is a good source of protein, which everyone needs, but too much red meat can be very harmful to the health in the long run. When I went with my mom to the grocery store and saw the amount of red meat that they sold, I felt a mixture of shock and to be honest, slightly disgusted. (I received permission to take this picture)
I miss eating other variety of healthy fresh foods like salmon (nonexistent here) and other types of seafood. A lot of students in my program have commented on the fact that they may not eat meat for the first couple of weeks when they return home, and I wouldn’t blame them at all. However, one way that I have adjusted well to this quite new eating practice is consuming other clean foods with my meals, in addition to the red meat, such as lots of fruits and vegetables.
4. Cooking- Practice makes perfect as many people say and I have definitely had to learn that, specifically when it came to using the stove top in Argentina. In the United States, everything is electric and it’s so fun and tranquil to cook a recipe in the comfort of home. But here, in order to make a simple dish on the stove top such as pasta or rice, you have to light a match, position the small flame on the stove top and turn the knob on the oven at the same time. It took some time for me to get used to and made me feel very uncomfortable at first because I’m afraid of burning my hands from fire. This past week, when my host mom was out and I was the only one in the apartment, I attempted to cook pasta and for some reason, I had a difficult time positioning the fire from the match on the stove top. I tried this at least seven times and gave up because first, I didn’t want to burn my hands and second, because the kitchen was really starting to smell like smoke. When I called my host mom to tell her what was going on, she rushed back to the apartment because she thought the presence of gas was present in the apartment from me trying to light the match. (Being exposed to too much gas in the air can have harmful affects on the health) So after getting off the phone with her, I was panicking a little bit, closed the door in the kitchen and quickly opened the door on the balcony to let fresh air in. Thankfully, she didn’t smell gas when she came in. The problem was, I forgot to turn the knob on the oven as I was positioning the fire from the flame on the stove top. It was such a simple error!
This week has been very hectic for me, particularly because I had to get my VISA finalized and I had many deadlines for completing essays and an exam. Thankfully, this three day weekend to Mendoza will be a great way for me to de-stress! I have more things to write about what I have learned to accept while I am here. But, since I leave for Mendoza by bus tonight, and still need to start packing, I’m dividing this particular blog entry into two parts! So, stay tuned to my next couple of blogs! I can’t wait to tell you all about my trip to Mendoza!