Posts Tagged ‘Argentina’

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Thomas: Reverse Culture Shock

January 4, 2012

It has been over two weeks since I returned from my adventures in South America. It’s been hard to analyze my feelings and emotions since re-entering the United States. Two words describe how life has been during the first two weeks back in my hometown, surreal and stressful.

I arrived at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport at about 10:30 am on a Saturday to my eldest sister and niece waiting for me near my baggage claim. Their timing was impeccable. It was good to see familiar faces. Waiting in the van were my sister’s neighbors and good friends who tagged along to keep my sister company on the 2.5 hour car ride to the airport. I was very happy as we left the airport, but everything felt much like a dream. Our first stop after the airport: IKEA. Though not the most ideal “first stop” after getting off the plane, I managed to cope and just enjoy looking at the trendy Swedish furniture and random household nicknacks. My first meal after returning from abroad, Swedish meatballs and potatoes.

The surreal feeling continued throughout the next couple of days. It was strange to meet up with family and see some friends again, although most of my friends who are my age were still in school. The quietness and slow pace of my hometown, along with the farm I grew up was a hard change from the high-speed, always busy streets of Buenos Aires. And even though the weather in Minnesota is a bit “warmer” for December at about 30-40 degrees (F), only now am I getting used to the change from the constant 70+ degrees I left in Buenos Aires.

About three or four days after I got back to the U.S. the physical signs of stress started to emerge. My lips began to tingle and soon, over a 24 hour period broke out into sores. Never has that happened to me before. It was a strange and very uncomfortable phenomenon. It has taken about a week and a half and a lot of medication for them to fully heal. An informal doctor visit claimed it was likely a stress related breakout.

Remembering how to live in Minnesota again has been an interesting and fun experience. I had to learn how to drive again. Getting behind the wheel felt foreign and unnatural at first, but like riding a bicycle you never truly forget. After a few miles on the road, driving felt routine again. Simple differences weren’t that difficult to re-adapt to, but it is always fun to remember the differences in the way of life of Porteños to the way Minnesotans go about simple tasks. I always feel the need to point out the differences to friends or family. I wonder if they are getting annoyed yet.

It’s now fun to speak Spanish! I think my family is getting annoyed by me saying some things in Spanish and then English. When at first I speak Spanish, the dumbfounded reaction on their faces is priceless and quite amusing. Over time, I’ve become accustomed to all-English, but I really hate losing the little Spanish I already know well. I am currently on the wait-list for the only Spanish 1004 class that fits into my busy class schedule at the U of M this Spring.

It is so great to be back in the country I love and to see the people that I missed so dearly. My experiences in South America were absolutely incredible and I do not regret anything. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed it so much that it is really hard to talk about my experiences to others. Many ask how my time in Argentina was, but it’s almost impossible to answer in a sound-bite or a couple minute conversation. I usually ask, how much time do you have? I couldn’t talk about my experiences in minutes, but rather in hours.

Thank you all for reading my thoughts and experiences while abroad. It has been really helpful to write about everything and will be nice to look back on as time moves forward. I hope everyone had a happy and healthy 2011 and hope the new year is even better. Happy 2012 to all!

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Thomas: The Final Summary

December 14, 2011

As I waited for my flight back to America recently, I did some reflecting on my experiences living in Buenos Aires for over three months. Many people who have participated in study abroad programs claim that they change more, as a person, in three months than they do in years. I would have to agree with this notion. Opening your eyes to an entirely new world changes you drastically. I’ve noticed that my perceptions of South America and the United States have changed and adapted. I’m also better able to look at everyday things from another perspective, a different angle than before. There is no doubt that I have grown significantly as a person.

I wrote earlier about not being able to grow without being out of your comfort zone. I think this is sentiment is true for all people. When I arrived, there is no question that I was out of my comfort zone. As I write today, my comfort zone has widened dramatically. I now feel totally comfortable with much of Argentina and a good chunk of South America, its people and its land. Imagine if your comfort zone widened to cover almost an entire continent of people and things. It’s quite an incredible feeling, the feeling of growth.

Have I mastered the Spanish language? No, not even close, but I’m comfortable with knowing what I know. I’ve taken three Spanish courses since May of this year, so I wasn’t expecting to be fluent. It takes years of dedication to become fluent in a language.

I do feel very fortunate to have had this fantastic experience. I’ve enjoyed it very much and would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Having had this experience I know I have become a better person and a better citizen of the world. I also now realize how big our planet is and how much of it still needs to be explored on an individual basis.

It’s a bittersweet feeling. I am sad to leave Argentina, my host family, and the things I’ve grown accustomed to in the last three and a half months. The food, the architecture, the constant activity and action. I am, however, thrilled to go back to the place I love and have spent my entire life. I look forward to seeing my family and friends. I’m excited to see the things I know so well with a new set of eyes and experiences. Experts say that reverse culture shock is harder to adjust to than the opposite. They say it’s harder to adjust going back to where you come from after a study abroad experience than it is to adjust to a new country in the first place. This may be true for me, as I go from living in a city of 13 million to a town of 1,300.

I plan on writing a couple more posts during my first month home. I can bet that there will be a number of changes and a few things I will miss once I leave Buenos Aires.

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Thomas: Ice, Ice, Baby

December 11, 2011

There’s no other way to describe my trip to El Calafate and El Chalten, Argentina than truly amazing. Not only was I able to see South America’s second largest glacier, I climbed it! The glaciers were breathtaking earth forms that stretched for miles and stood as tall as some skyscrapers. There isn’t much to say other than I had a great time traveling to Patagonia and I met some really nice people from across the globe to share in with my experiences. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

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Thomas: Thanksgiving in Argentina

November 24, 2011

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I decided it would be best to not mope around Buenos Aires over Thanksgiving and think about how much I miss spending the holiday in the U.S. In addition, there was still a large portion of the country I had not yet seen: Patagonia.

I’m blogging live from my hostel in El Calafate. There will be a post later on what I’m doing here, but as for now I want to share my own personal Thanksgiving lunch today.

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That’s right, pizza, Patagonian beer, and flan for dessert.

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Perfect.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Thomas: a land of many landscapes

November 17, 2011

I’ve written a lot about Argentina’s Capital city of Buenos Aires, I do after all spend 95% of my time there. I haven’t, however, written very much about the rest of Argentina. While doing research on the country last Summer I quickly realized how diverse the Argentinian landscape is. I thought I would dedicate this post to the many beautiful and precious landscapes that make up the 8th largest country in the world (by land area). If only one had enough time and money to visit each of these landscapes. Pictures will have to do for now.

The Northwest

Arid deserts, cracked salt flats, colorful deep canyons, and the Andes Mountainside make up the Northwest region of Argentina. This area is also still home to many of Argentina’s Aymara and Quechua indigenous people. One of best parts of this region is its indigenous influences, from food and music, to clothes and artwork. Of course, if you travel slighting south of the far NW region of Argentina, you will run into the very profitable wine country. Olive oil is also a large industry in the West-NW provinces Cuyo and Mendoza. (See an earlier post for more on wine country)

Cafayate

The Northeast

Recently named on the 7 Wonders of the World, Iguazú Falls is the most spectacular waterfall in the world. It is located in NE Argentina, surrounded by subtropical rainforest, and near the border with Brazil. As a matter of fact, the falls are so big, they are located in both Argentina and Brazil. These falls stretch 2 miles and are comprised of over 250 individual waterfalls. “Poor Niagara!”, exclaimed First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt upon visiting Iguazú Falls.

Iguazu Falls

Western Patagonia

Extraordinarily colorful lakes and snow capped mountains highlight the landscape of this region. The beauty, wildlife, and many European cultural influences makes this area the most popular destination within the region of Patagonia.

Bariloche

Eastern Patagonia

I want to highlight Puerto Madryn, a city in the eastern Patagonian coast, and the Valdés Peninsula. This peninsula is most popular for people wanting to see wales leap out of the water just off the coast or to hang out with penguins or hundreds of other marine species. It is one of the world’s great nature preserves, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Puerto Madryn

Southern Patagonia

The end of the world. The southern type of Argentina is shared with Chile and is a gateway for many explorers on their way to Antarctica. Beautiful glaciers and more arctic wildlife can be found here. The city of Ushuaia has become a popular tourist destination for people wanting to climb the glaciers or journey to one of the southern-most point in S. America.

Ushuaia; located on Tierra del Fuego

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Thomas: Three weeks

September 19, 2011

Imagine having to completely start over. Imagine being placed in a new city, a city not even located within the same continent. You’ve never been to this place before. People are speaking a different language, one that you don’t understand. They live their lives differently than you have ever lived yours. You move into a new house, on a foreign block, in a foreign neighborhood, within a foreign city, country, continent. You live with a different family, go to a new school or maybe start a new job. You know no one. You must create new friendships, learn how to communicate, how to act, how to live, etc.

What you’re imagining is exactly what I have experienced living in Buenos Aires. In the three weeks I have spent living in here I have thought how strange and unique this whole experience has been. Completely re-starting life after living in another one for slightly over two decades. Strange concept isn’t it?

What a Difference a Few Weeks Make

Today, I went back to the restaurant that I visited my first full day here in Argentina. It just happens to be exactly 3 weeks later, and wow, time has never felt so good. Unlike three Monday’s ago, I found myself comfortable at doing nearly everything. It seems so simple, greeting, sitting down, ordering, eating, asking for your bill, paying and leaving, but in a foreign land, it’s not. And today I realized how uncomfortable I really was that very first day.

There’s really nothing like it.

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Thomas: Some interesting things

September 13, 2011

As I was eating breakfast I looked out of the kitchen window to see two calabash gourds sitting next to an empty bottle of Spring Grove Pop. I thought the symbolism would make for a great picture. 

The gourds are quite ubiquitous in Argentina and in other Latin American countries. Natives use them to drink Mate (pronounced ma-tay). Mate is a traditional drink that is prepared by steeping special herbs in hot water. It contains a lot of caffeine and many natives drink it throughout the day for an added energy boost. Unfortunately I have yet to try it, but soon I will. Wikipedia for more.

Before my class visited a ranch and enjoyed an asado last Friday to the rural areas in the Province of Buenos Aires, we stopped in the city of Luján to see a very big church. 

La Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Luján, as it’s called, reaches 350 feet into the sky. It has been building up from a small chapel since 1887. In 1630 a terra-cotta statuette of the Virgin Mary was being hauled via ox and cart from Brazil to Peru when it suddenly became stuck in the middle of nowhere. The statue’s curators took it as a divine hint that the statue wasn’t supposed to go any further. So they left it there and build a chapel around it. Today, about 6 million people make a pilgrimage to this site. Many of them walk from the city of Buenos Aires, which takes about 14.5 hours.  IMG_0329 IMG_0330 IMG_0332 IMG_0364 IMG_0365 IMG_0366 IMG_0367 IMG_0368 IMG_0369 

Also, on Saturday, I took a stroll down to the Casa Rosada (the Argentinean President’s workspace) again. On the weekends they open the building for visitors so I walked in and looked around. There wasn’t much to see, but I have some photos.

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