Hey everyone! Sorry that it's been so long since my last post...I never want to take a break from running around Buenos Aires to reflect! So, I'm going to try to cram in a few of my adventures in this post to catch up.
I didn't know this before I came here, but Buenos Aires is home to a world-renowned circus-type show entitled Fuerza Bruta ("brute force" translated). Since its creation in 2005, this "post-modern theatre show," as it's described, has spread to major cities around the world, including our very own NYC! Its goal is to encourage interaction between the performers and the audience, creating a unique experience each time. The best way I can describe it is a demented version of Cirque de Soleil. The show went something like this: they packed all of us in a fairly small room and we stood as the acrobats circled around us, screaming, chanting, singing, banging drums, and doing flips in the air--it's crazy! Throughout the show, seizure-inducing lights danced around the constantly changing canvasses, making me feel like I was in another dimension. The performers got up close and personal, encouraging us to join them in exploring our own "brute" sides. My description doesn't do it justice, but it was one of the most intriguing experiences that I've had in Argentina so far--definitely a must-see in B.A.
Besides that incredibly insane show, I've been exploring some other cultural hubs around Buenos Aires. One of these is the MALBA, or the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires. It's pretty small, but it currently has a really interesting exhibition by Le Parc Lumière, a French artist. An inventive thinker, he wanted to create art that wasn't static. He wanted his art to evolve and breathe. Thus, he put together an exhibit that plays with lights and glass (picture and video below). The piece consists of a dark room with lights from every angle reflecting off of different pieces of glass. It was kind of like an out-of-body experience; I was mesmerized, like a child during her first snowstorm. It's amazing how something so simple can be so thought provoking.
Another museum I visited with my anthropology class is the Museo de la Plata, which is a natural history museum filled with fossils and indigenous relics. We've been learning about the founder, Francisco Moreno, and his controversial collection of native human remains. He used to display the skeletons of hundreds of indigenous people throughout the museum, but a fairly new law forced the museum to remove this part of the collection and guard them in another room that's closed to the public. Now, the museum has become a taxidermy showcase. It's interesting to see such a variation of creatures all in one place, but throughout the whole visit, I couldn't shake the feeling that I had stumbled into someone's creepy basement and discovered their secret fetish. There were dinosaur bones, stuffed birds, preserved insects, and even one human mummy still on display. It appeared outdated, but that was part of its "charm," I suppose. It definitely served as a stark contrast to the sleek and modern MALBA.
As you can gather from reading this, Buenos Aires is an eclectic city that never sleeps, so I have the privilege of discovering a new side every week. It's incredible. There's much to come ahead, including my first writing assignment for my internship at the Buenos Aires Herald. Stay tuned!
Like I mentioned in my last post, European lifestyle is drastically different from the American lifestyle. How people act in public, how they shop and consume, and how city life moves in Vienna is all new and unusual to me. I have spent the last three weeks observing these differences and becoming comfortable with the unfamiliar. It is hard, but a necessary part of being abroad.
The biggest disparity between American and Viennese culture that I've seen is how people act in public. In Vienna, people do not smile. I mean it! In Austria, one is not expected to act happy and upbeat all the time. Waiters and cashiers aren't going to act nice and ask you how your day was. But, if someone is rude or cold towards you, you can't take it personally. People here just don't hide their emotions. Viennese people are also quiet and reserved. People dress very modestly here and keep to themselves. The trains and subways are almost always silent during morning commutes. Strangers don't talk to each other very often and everyone seems to be very comfortable in silence. Actually, I love going to cafes and restaurants to get work done because you can never hear a conversation happening at the next table!
One of the positive differences of being in Vienna versus America is how progressive and forward thinking Austria is. The people here take pride in everything they have. They make sure all public spaces are clean and leave it better than they found it for the next person. The trains and buses in Vienna are the best I've ever seen. They always work smoothly and efficiently, come every 3 to 5 minutes, are easy to navigate, and of course are always tidy. Recycling is also a very big part of Viennese culture. There are recycling bins everywhere and everyone is expected to do their job and throw out their garbage in the right bin. Another part of Vienna I found unusual was how you do not need to swipe a ticket or pass to get onto buses and trains. The government trusts people will buy their weekly or monthly passes and have it with them at all times. Of course, there are random checks to see if everyone has a pass, but most of the time people always have a ticket. It seems to me the people of Austria are very trustworthy!
After three weeks I don't think I can say I'm completely ready to switch over to the European way of life. I love talking to everyone I meet and definitely do not fit in with the quiet and conservative Austrians. But, I love their dedication to keeping their city beautiful and well run. The presence of community is powerful.
Time for update 1!
Today was my first day of language class. Its a month long immersion course two months before real classes start. I thought my understanding would sort of be on par with it. I was wrong. Turns out I am about a foot and a half too short for it - it was way over my head. Now to mix metaphors: hopefully I am a good enough swimmer that I can keep afloat. Either that or grow a lot. Loss.
After that disaster of a class today I left and found a small café for something to eat. Turns out you can't order inside then eat outside. Also, an espresso is actually a tiny cup with strong brown liquid in it that sort of resembles coffee. I wouldn't call this a total loss, but it wasn't a win either. Lets chalk this up as a tie.
I have been told by many people how lovely this city is and how beautiful the Swarzwald (Black Forest) is. I went on a little adventure. Just me, my pack with all of the homework I am putting off until later and my phone. Google has an app called MyTracks. Its awesome. I get lost easily in cities, but this keeps track of me so I know where I have been (or where I am going), then you can save the trip and look at it later. Nifty app.
Anyway, I ended up traipsing through the forest for a total of 3.75 miles. I found a couple beautiful look outs and even found a tower that was supported with giant logs. As a result of this, if you stand at the very top and do a butt-wiggle the entire tower sways.
After this tower I continued on in search of Schlossberg. (I got lost in the woods for a little, but that was sort of on purpose and completely for fun.) What I found was just a tiny remnant of something that didn't look like what a Burg should look like. I am assuming I found the wrong place. Google isn't helping. I will have to go back. I'll call this a win cause I broke my ankle in the middle of April and had no problems today.
All in all, I'd say so far Freiburg and I are even. Time to read the dictionary.
- To be the very best version of myself, morally and academically.
- To live. I sometimes get stuck in keeping myself in a comfortable routine of complacency where I don't challenge myself to see more than what's beyond the surface. But i've got my night goggles, telescope, and binoculars this time around, so let's do this!
This post is quite overdue, but nonetheless read on to hear about my adventures at Iguazu falls, now one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
For those of you who don't know, Iguazu falls, also known as the Cataratas, are gorgeous, huge waterfalls that were created millions of years ago by a geological fault that split up Argentina and Brazil. Now, the Cataratas are a huge tourist attraction, with people traveling from all over the world to see the 250-foot tall falls. The main attraction is the "Garganta del Diablo," or "Devil's Throat," which, as you can imagine, is quite intimidating. I now have the privilege of saying that I was doused by the Devil's Throat--how cool is that?!
The falls take up a solid day, so we got up with the sun and headed straight for them. Two hikes provide very different views of the main waterfalls--one from the base and one right above them. There's a thin metal bridge that allows you to walk over the falls. I have a slight fear of heights, so by the time we had finished the upper loop, I was a little weak in the knees. If the bridge were to have broken, I would have fallen straight down to my death.
By far the coolest (literally and figuratively) part of the day was when we boarded the Nautical Adventure boat to explore the base of the falls. They warned us that we would get wet, but we had no idea what we were in for. The captain took us right into the mist of Salto San Martín. The mist was so forceful that I can't even imagine what the water pressure is right under the waterfall. It would have broken our necks! Then, he sped closer to Garganta del Diablo, and we got a one-of-a-kind view of the magnificent waterfall before yet another shower. By the time the Adventure was over, we were soaked to the bone, shivering in the shade of the jungle. BUT--it was an experience that I would definitely repeat. So incredible. So worth it. My pictures can't do it justice.
After our action-packed day, we retreated to our hostel (the first one I've ever tried!) and played games into the wee hours of the morning. It was so much fun! I still can't get over the fact that a month ago, my big adventure was taking the train every day to work in Philadelphia. Now, I can hop on a bus and the next day be exploring a natural wonder of the world or even a different country! It's insane. Study abroad truly is the experience of a lifetime, and I'm trying to cherish every precious moment.
Hello everyone! It has been quite the week for travelling for me. Last Tuesday, I set off for my study abroad and arrived in Vienna early Wednesday morning. But, before I could move into my apartment in the city, IES Abroad took all of the students to a family Hostel in Mariazell, Austria for a three-day orientation. Mariazell is a small city three hours away from Vienna in a region called Styria. It is mostly known for its winter sports and beautiful basilica.
Thankfully, there were no name-games at this orientation. IES wanted the students to meet the staff and each other, grow comfortable with being away from home, and learn a little about what it's like to live in Austria. We had a traditional Austrian night (so, so many lederhosen) and we were taught to dance the Viennese waltz. We also had day trips to Erlaufsee, a beautiful lake with a hiking trail, and into the city of Mariazell to tour the basilica and a schnapps factory.
After barely getting any sleep at orientation, everyone packed up their stuff and we were shipped off to Vienna to finally move into our apartments. And, wow, it was totally worth the wait. I live in Vienna's 6th district, only a 20 minute walk from the center of the city. There are a ton of things to do, like the naschmarkt, various types of restaurants, and stunning parks. I have only lived here two days, but I know this place will grow to feel like home.
IES warned students there might be some ups and downs while we're abroad. According to them, I'm still in the first phase of being in a new country, where everything is new and exciting and culture shock just hasn't hit me yet. I recognize that European life is very different from what I'm use to in the United States, but I am so open to everything I have experienced so far that I think I will be very willing to adjust myself to assimilate to the Viennese lifestyle. Isn't that what study abroad is about? I want to push myself to see what I am capable of and learn from mistakes I will inevitably make while I'm here. I hope to gain a new perspective on the world and on my inner self.
Before I launch into my experience in
Argentina's countryside, I want to clarify my last blog post. There are two
places you can take classes through IES--at the IES center itself and at local
Argentine universities. My last post was referring to my trial run of classes
at a local Argentine university (USAL). While I will not be taking classes at
USAL, I will be taking a full semester's worth of classes at the IES
center--all in Spanish. I'm not just taking an incredible four-month hiatus
from the real world.
Now that that's out of the way, I've got to tell you all about my taste of Argentina's roots at La Estancia--a ranch in the countryside. First, a little background: Argentina has a blended identity--one part "civilized" immigrants and the other native cultivators of the land. The gauchos are, in essence, the quintessential cowboys that lived along the frontier. Two weeks ago, we got to experience this more serene side of Argentina.
It was great to escape the smoke-filled airs of the city for a day and relax in the sunshine at La Estancia. We watched the animals roaming around the farm, listened to traditional gaucho music, and sampled the typical Argentine "asado." The music was passionate and melancholy, and seemed to evoke the national sentiment of the gauchos. The food was...an experience. They had a lot of bread, of course, and A LOT of meat. There was chorizo, chicken, beef, pork, and the one I had been waiting to try...morcilla, a.k.a. blood sausage. Three years ago, I wouldn't even have allowed that to touch my plate. But, I turned over a new leaf a few years ago, and now I'm on a mission to taste (almost) everything once. I apologize to anyone who likes morcilla, but it was definitely one of the most disgusting foods I have ever eaten. It tastes a lot worse than it looks in this picture. Bleh! The texture was like paté, and the taste was indescribable. I'm glad I can check that off the bucket list, because I don't intend to repeat that experience.
To close out the day, we watched the Doma India, who is, in essence, a "horse whisperer," do acrobatics with his horse. It was very intimate and intense--the connection this man had with his horse. Apparently, he's world-renowned, so it was a privilege to see a private performance.
While the day trip was wonderful, I continued my string of embarrassing touristy mishaps that night: It was 11 PM, and my friend and I were hungry. We just wanted a quick, cheap dinner, so we decided to check out a cute little Italian place near her apartment. We sat down, opened the menus, and then immediately looked at each other wide-eyed--"Uh-oh." Thinking that we were grabbing something cheap, I had only brought about 150 pesos--the equivalent of $15 in the states. Everything on the menu had three (Argentine) dollar signs. But, we couldn't just get up and leave--that would probably be a faux pas. We were stuck, so we ordered one meal and one water bottle to share (yes, you pay for the water here), and laughed our way through dinner. I'm pretty sure our faces were as red as the sauce by the time we left. Stupid Americans. Naturally, we drowned our embarrassment in delicious gelato and retreated to our beds.
Sorry that this post was so long, but there is even more to come! I finally started my internship and spent a wonderful weekend by the waterfalls of Iguaz