Tranquility amid turmoil

June 11, 2017

“Se trata de encontrar la calma en el caos.”

“It’s all about finding the calm in the chaos.” – Donna Karan

     Out of all of the weeks that I have spent here in Córdoba, Argentina thus far, I would consider last week the most unordinary one. Instead of attending my four classes that are normally held Monday through Thursday, and taking the bus to go to my service learning at the private English institute, I spent all of my time in the apartment reading, watching Netflix with my roommates and learning/cooking new recipes with my host mom. (I’ve acquired so many skills when it comes to cooking the Argentine way thanks to her) On Friday, June 2, the paro de colectivos went into effect. From the previous date mentioned and still continuing to this day, the bus system has stopped completely.

     Of course the bus drivers are the ones behind this act of protest because they are not satisfied with their salary. Therefore, they are refusing to drive citizens around, which has been very inconvenient for everyone, particularly those who have to take two buses to get to work everyday. In addition, taxi drivers are feeling extra stress and pressure because with no buses running, (everyone needs a ride somewhere) traffic has been even more insane. Students who have to take the bus to get to the university have no way of getting there, hence, our class cancellations. The thing that really peeves me though is that choferes (bus drivers) get paid three times as much as teachers and two times as much as doctors here in Argentina and yet, they are still ungrateful. The next time I get on a bus here(who knows when that will be, maybe never again because they still haven’t come to a consensus and my time in the country is quickly coming to a close), I won’t look at the bus driver the same way. I am aware that not all of them are ungrateful, but the inconvenience that this has put on the entire city is ludicrous. Since I only live about two blocks away from the center of the city, I spent a lot of my time last week listening to unhappy bus drivers protesting in the streets, firecrackers consistently going off and countless amounts of ambulance sirens. According to my host mom, she hasn’t seen a paro de colectivos take place for more than 20 years and it’s been at least 70 years since an occurrence this severe has happened.

     Unfortunately, the amount of protests that I have observed while walking throughout the city has been steadily increasing within the past couple of weeks, even more so with the paro de colectivos. Just when we thought that the commotion had calmed down this past weekend, my roommate and I went out yesterday evening to attend a youth group gathering and we accidently happened to run into another protest. To me, it sounded more like a celebration because the smell of barbequed asado filled the air and upbeat Spanish music was blaring through the streets. But, we still took precaution and avoided it as much as possible by taking shortcuts through different roads.  Despite the political and economic transition that Argentina has been undergoing, citizens are still not satisfied and have tried, in so many various ways, to have their voices heard. As I walk around the city, and constantly see the police blocking the streets due to another protest, all I can say is that when it boils down to everyone coming to a peaceful consensus, this society has a long way to go.

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Despite the fact that the paro de colectivos was (and still is) in effect, two other girls from the Spanish program and I still decided that we wanted to go out and make the most of our time by doing some sort of activity. We had to do something different after being cooped up in our homes all week! It was a gorgeous day this past Saturday (around 73 degrees) which I considered quite spontaneous considering that Argentina is in the middle of it’s frigid fall season. My host mom had informed me about a restaurant that not only serves food for people with gluten intolerances like me, but is also vegetarian friendly! (WHOA! A vegetarian friendly restaurant in a society where meat is everything? Yes, I was shocked as well.)  The restaurant has a catchy name too, Sol y Luna (Sun and moon); not that the name had anything to do with though. I just love how natural it sounds! So, I decided to invite my two other acquaintances to have lunch with me at this eatery. This particular restaurant is located in two different places in Córdoba. One of them is permanently closed, or just so happens to be according to the internet, so we had no other choice but to walk about four blocks in order to arrive at the restaurant in the other location. We never found the place! It was beginning to get really frustrating because we spent probably about 45 minutes or so walking around in circles searching for it and asked at least ten different people if they knew where it was. By the time 1:00 PM rolled around, since we were starving and didn’t want to pass out from lack of food and the heat that was beaming from the sun, we decided that enough was enough. My acquaintance and I eventually opted for an Italian restaurant, equivalent to an Olive Garden (oh, how I miss that restaurant chain), where I ate a highly delectable and healthy meal. Although I didn’t end up eating at Sol y Luna, and felt bad for dragging my acquaintance around the city for that long, at the end of the day, we were all still satisfied with our hearty meal, enjoyed our chat and looked forward to our next activity planned.

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     During my time here in this country, as I have elaborated on in previous blog entries, I’ve been exposed even more to the Spanish language, the cuisine, social habits, music, art and so many other characteristics that define culture. However, for anyone studying these aspects of culture, there are other significant attributes that they should know about in order to gain a better understanding of the country as a whole, something as tranquil as nature itself. Before visiting el zoológico (zoo), I have to admit, that I was not aware of how rich Argentina is in their variety of animal species ranging from the north to the south. For example, the Patagonia, located in the south of South America, is home to all sorts of wildlife like tortoises and herons. The northeastern part of Argentina, where one can find bountiful rainforests and Iguazú Falls (one of the seven wonders of the world), has an innumerable amount of bird species. I saw an array of flora and fauna, birds, reptiles, and mammals at el zoológico. However, out of all of them, my two favorite ones were the ostrich (I had never seen one like that before) and the beautiful white swans.

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     Thankfully, the trip to el zoológico took my mind off of everything that has been happening in the city lately and I truly felt a peace of mind. It was almost as though I was in a different world because there were no sounds of firecrackers or people marching or yelling, just the sights and sounds of nature.  We all need to find tranquility in the midst of a chaotic world and for me, going to the zoo on this beautiful day was one way to do that. Tomorrow, even though the paro de colectivos is still continuing, class will commence once again because we are already behind in the curriculum. I’m curious to hear the perspective from the professors in regards to all that is taking place. But, in the midst of all that is going on, I’m determined to block out the noise and make the most out of the remaining time here that I have in Argentina.

 

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