Happy Christmas

“Christmas is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.”

Dale Evans Rogers really got it right when she said that phrase.  It’s interesting to me to discover cultural differences concerning worldwide holidays.  In Argentina, Santa Claus is called “Papa Noel” and children run to the streets at midnight on Christmas to look for his sleigh only to return to their homes to find all their toys from Papa Noel delivered.  As this is occurring, many North American families are headed to midnight Christmas Eve services.  No one tradition is more right but it’s true that culture shapes a holiday but doesn’t make a holiday.  While all people groups have various traditions, the heart of the day is Christ’s birth and that in and of itself is truly beautiful.

Christmas is an even greater miracle to me every year.  With each year I my life have been blessed more because with time I’m able to meet more and more people.  I believe that it’s people that make life worth-while, especially during the holidays.  Amidst the “rush” of the Christmas season here in the United States, I felt like I was in another world because my mind swayed from here to Argentina constantly.  When we had large family gatherings I thought about how my Argentine family gathers every Sunday to spend the entire day together, when we ate turkey I thought about asado, when our clock struck midnight on Christmas Eve I thought about Bauti (my 7 year old host nephew) searching the Buenos Aires skies for Papa Noel, and when I gave Argentine gifts to people my heart was so full because each gift was a reminder to me of one of my Argentine experiences.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been asked several times what my favorite part of Argentina was.  That’s an impossible question to answer in a phrase but to keep it quick I usually say the culture in general and the people I met, especially my Argentine family.  Really when it comes down to it, people are the core of it all and people are the ones who love and act and give.  I believe I’ve had Christmas for the past five months because the Argentines I met demonstrated love in action and they gave to me the most precious gift, the opportunity to live as a porteña and experience their unique yet utterly wonderful country and culture.

Mi familia Argentina

Besos, Ashlee

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Give Thanks

My host mom Nora just said, “Mañana es un otra día.”  She’s right, obviously, because realistically speaking tomorrow is another day.  But looking a little deeper into the phrase, tomorrow is another day given to us as a gift and it should be lived as so.  For me, tomorrow is another day closer to leaving my beautiful life here in Buenos Aires and in these final days, especially after the celebration of Thanksgiving in the U.S., I’m am reminded of the endless Argentine things, places, traditions and most importantly, people that I am thankful for.

I’ve come to learn that for me during this semester, blessings can be even richer in hindsight. For the past four months, I’ve been integrating into another culture by learning Argentine traditions, participating in typical native events, trying new foods and going on unique adventures.  I haven’t been doing it alone though.  Throughout this entire experience, I’ve had my abroad friends by my side.  I was reminded of the importance of great friendships two Fridays ago when I had to say goodbye to my two very best abroad friends.  I was reminded of how much of a blessing my friendships with my fellow IES Abroad students are.  How special it is that I shared such a life changing experience with such a memorable group of people.  I now have plenty of friends from the North – so what a great excuse to travel even more so I can visit them!

Speaking of traveling, I was beyond blessed to travel to Chile last weekend to visit Elizabeth and Sarah Grace who are currently studying abroad in Santiago and to visit my Chilean host family in Viña del Mar from Interim 2012.  It was a dream come true to spend time with them again in Viña and reflect on old memories while making new ones.  We had helado every day I was there, of course – hitting up the typical spots like Bravissimo and Mó.  We walked the path by the ocean, ate mariscos, visited Valparaiso and all piled into our parents’ bed to watch tv just like old times.  After my Interim in Viña, I dreamed of visiting again to see my Chilean host family but never did I imagine that I would actually have the opportunity to do so!  I am everthankful for memories like these and for the people I’ve met in both Chile and Argentina that have made my abroad experiences so worthwhile.

Before my plane takes off in a few days, I only have one more exam then plenty of fun activities planned with my Argentine host family (whom I’m obviously going to talk about in my final Argentine blog post).  In my final days here, I’m especially going to be giving thanks for all things Argentina.  Y por eso, ¡re afortunado!

Alex, Louisa and me – I cannot count the endless memories I have with these amazing chicas!

There’s nothing like a day on the beach in November!

Thankful for my sweet Chilean family

Besos,

Ashlee

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Flâneuring

Have you ever been a tourist in your own city?  It’s an odd concept to think of and I’m not sure how one would define the concept.  However, two weeks ago I was able to be a tourist in my current home when my parents came to visit.

I felt like a flâneur in a way.  (Something can be said for being able to apply a concept learned in class…My poetry class just studied the idea of a flâneur so props to my professor for teaching me this.)  While my parents and I were obviously interacting with locals daily, I felt like a detached observer, which is the definition of a flâneur.  Since being in Argentina, I had quickly come to treat Buenos Aires like home and I felt completely comfortable with the city and my new routine.  However, when Mom and Dad came, my sense of normalcy was interrupted in the best kind of way.  For an entire week I was able to be a true tourist, but in a familiar place.  I was simultaneously able to show off my new home to the people I love the most.

Spending a week my Mom and Dad as a tourist allowed me to refresh my love for Buenos Aires and appreciate the city from a different angle.  We spent plenty of time enjoying the gastronomy of Argentina by eating our fare share of steak and dulce de leche.  We passed by the Obelisco from the comfort of a taxi and on foot and on the top of a double-decker tour bus.  We explored the wonder of the Recoleta Cemetery and listened to live music from the “Paradise” section (top floor) in Teatro Colon.  We pursued the endless isles of books at El Ateneo, ate beside the famous statue in Café Tortoni, braved a partido de fútbol in the River Plate stadium, watched a tango show, appreciated art at the MALBA and spent a day in Colonia, Uruguay.

What was my favorite thing we did?  I truly cannot answer that.  While I look back on all the exciting activities we did that week I can only think of one thing that was constant: having my parents by my side through it all.  If I was reminded of anything it is that family is irreplaceable and I consider myself more than blessed to be a member of my supportive, caring, constant family.

El Ateneo

Go Argentina!

Teatro Colon

Recoleta Cemetery

Cafe Tortoni

Besos, Ashlee

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Mendoza

My spring break adventure in Mendoza with my friends Louisa, Alex and Becca was nothing short of an adventure.  On day 1, we signed up for a tour of El Cañón del Atuel expecting to be hiking around, but instead we were whisked away in a van with 7 Argentine tourists, a warm-hearted bus driver, and a peppy tour guide.  We saw the beautiful, endless canyon and Alex even went rafting with other group members while Louisa and I risked our lives on a boat tour (aka the slowest boat ever that went in one circle but turned out to be fun).

Louisa, Alex and I in Canon del Atuel

On day 2 we hiked Cerro Arca, the last service mountain before the actual Andes Mountain range.  It was so beautiful to stand on the top of a mountain after 2 hours of hiking and look out at the city of Mendoza then turn around and see the Andes Mountains.

We love hiking!

Wofford spirit in front of the Andes Mountains

On day 3 we participated in “The Gaucho Experience” which consisted of a horseback ride across the Argentine countryside with a view of the Andes, an asado prepared by gauchos, and a restful sit around a campfire.

Gaucho Experience

Day 4: Mr. Hugo’s bike tour.  We were greeted with hugs and a crooked smile when we entered Mr. Hugo’s bike tour shop, just about a 40 minute bus ride from the center of the city.  Becca, Alex, Louisa and I each rented a bike and rode together on a plan-your-own wine tour.  We went to Familia Di’Tomaso where we had a tour and tasting led by a kind chica a little older than us who actually went to college to study wine.  We also had a tasting complete with multiple free sweets from the chef at Traipiche.  Here we were able to stand on the balcony over-looking rows and rows of perfectly aligned olive trees.  Our final stop was a tour of Entre Olivos where we learned all about olives (Did you know that green and black olives are the same olive? – green are just picked first before they turn black).  We ended the day back at Mr. Hugo’s with a glass of fruit juice and another round of hugs.

Mr. Hugo’s Bike Tour

While every event of the trip was an amazing experience, my favorite part was meeting people from all different nationalities and having to communicate by mixing all languages known to each individual in the conversation.  The other people in our “Experiencia Gaucho” were Brazilian and Peruvian; therefore, the connection between us was more difficult due to the differences in our languages.  However, when everyone – including the workers on the ranch – sat around the dinner table, something magical occurred.  There were people from the US, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Chile and each person was speaking using every language he/she knew in order to communicate.  There was not one common language but nevertheless, we were all communicating and learning and laughing.  It was a beautiful moment.

Andes Mountains

Besos,

Ashlee

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I live in a joyería.

I found myself today on the corner of Billinghurst and Charcas.  As I was walking home from a merienda at Café Martinez with my language partner, Caro, I discovered a used bookstore and life came full circle.  I felt so at peace as I just stood there, flipping through pages of books with the biggest grin on my face and no worry in the world.  I was so extremely happy in that moment that my body felt weightless and all I could think about was how beautiful my situation is right now and how blessed I am to be experiencing another culture for such an extended period of time.  Although the city as a whole is amazing and Buenos Aires is usually pinpointed by images such as La Casa Rosada, El Obilisco, and the La Boca and River Plate futbol stadiums, the images I see are much different – they are the images of my simple yet exciting everyday life.  Images such as Filipo’s restaurant as I walk home, and the homeless woman on the corner of my block who captures my heart every time we lock eyes, and the dietaría where I go to buy nuts, not because they’re especially great but because I know the workers’ faces and they know mine.

In a city where the streets are filled with cigarillos, they are also filled with so much beauty and life.  I get immense energy from simply walking down the street with my gaze up high, appreciating the wonders surrounding me.  Amongst the hustle of a megacity, I am finding immense beauty in the simplicity of life and in the stillness of hidden gems that can be found throughout the entire city.

I heard a quote once that says: “Dare to miss the moments that will be gone tomorrow.”  I think that’s the perfect inspiration for a semester abroad.  I gain so much daily just by being here, from making new discoveries such as historical cafes, from learning yet another timeless Argentine tradition, from interacting with locals, and so much more.  I strive to challenge myself to take advantage of every opportunity placed before me and I have really enjoyed participating in planned IES activities and such, but I believe that the little moments that will be “gone tomorrow” – and realistically “gone” three months from now – are the simply treasures (familiarities and discoveries alike) that are part of my everyday life.  That being said, I feel like I’m living in a jewelry store as I am surrounded by countless gems.  And just so you know, living in this Argentine joyería is fine by me.

Besos~ Ashlee

Fito’s Restaurant

In the barrio of Palermo

In San Isidro

El Bandarin – named as one of 54 historic bars of the city

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Las Cataratas

Some of my best experiences abroad thus far have been like a waterfall.  Just as tranquil water turns into a powerful cataract when it runs over the edge of a cliff; there have been many situations where I’ve simply stepped into the unknown and had the most amazing experience.  I am so at peace here and I’m really learning the value of just appreciating what is around me rather than being too preoccupied in obligations to notice the beauty of the world.  A leap of faith really can create something more beautiful than imagined.

I have come to know multiple locations in the past few weeks such as the MALBA (El Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires) which is currently featuring an exhibit full of Yayoi Kusama’s works of art, San Isidro where Villa Ocampo (home of critic and publisher Victoria Ocampo) is located, Museo de Filete where my friends and I go to tango, and la Feria de Mataderos which is full of folkloric music and booths displaying traditional art.  While each of these locations, among others, is full of culture and history, my favorite “new discovery” of beauty was Iguazú Falls in Puerto Iguazú, Argentina.

Three of my friends and I ventured North on a 20 hour bus ride over our long weekend about 2 weeks ago to witness the beauty that was named one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World:  Iguazú Falls.  These cataracts are truly something of their own.  We were able to stand beside La Garganta del Diablo and look down into the mouth of this gigantic waterfall (which is in the shape of a horseshoe).  Upon arrival I was taking lots of pictures like the countless other tourists but after a little while I just had to stop, take a step back, and admire the beauty because it was absolutely breathtaking.  We additionally walked the “Upper Trail” which gave us a more aerial view of the cataracts.  Lastly, we walked the “Lower Trail” where we were able to walk to the mouth of the waterfall and get completely soaked doing so.  I will always remember the power of the sound of these beautiful works of God’s art.  It was truly incredible.

La Garganta del Diablo

Wofford goes to La Garganta del Diablo!

3 HITOS – Standing in Argentina with Paraguay & Brazil in the distance

Iguazu Falls – One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World

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Fashionable and Fabulous

¿Cuál es la moda? This question – What is fashion? – is quite relevant here in Buenos Aires. People here don’t necessarily all have the same fashion or style, but most everyone is stylish in his or her own way.  I’ve noticed that overall people value their appearance here which I appreciate.

There are some styles that are more prevalent here than in the United States.  A few of these are, but are not limited to, platform shoes, floral patterns, short boots, scarves, and leggings. All of these clothing items and accessories are seen daily on the city streets and in store windows as well.  Although platform shoes haven’t been a big thing in the USA since I was in middle school, I’m thinking about investing in a pair of platform booties and maybe bringing back that trend at home so we’ll see how that turns out.

This past Friday, my friend Louisa and I got to encounter real, important, famous fashion at the Buenos Aires Fashion Week (“BAFWeek”) which was held at La Rural Fairgrounds.  It was so fun to experience such a cultural and influential event for the city!  We attended two different fashion shows – one for “Las Pepas” and another for “Kostüme”.  We also walked around the many different showrooms that showcased items from local stores, had our makeup done by a professional makeup artist from Natura Una, and got free Ohlala magazines.  To top it off, we each bought a necklace from the Soers booth and they gave us free key chains just because.  It was a great day, all courtesy of my sweet host mom who gave us the free tickets! (Just as a side note: we saw one of the models at Burger King with her husband and son after the show and although we weren’t courageous enough to talk to her/tell her she did a good job, she smiled at us and definitely knew that we knew who she was so that was cool…)

 
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Southern Living

“Are you from the South?” Yes, of course this has been the most popular question directed at me this past week of abroad orientation.  I’m so proud to answer yes and a little prouder that people can pinpoint my accent, but I am adjusting very well to my life even further down south.

Life in BA is different than Georgia to say the least.  It’s different in the very best of ways.  I enjoy walking and taking the bus everywhere and it’s a great way to see the city and people-watch simultaneously.  I’ve found that even in a city of 2.8 million people, I can’t find a carbon copy whatsoever.  The city is so eclectic with people coming from all around the world to visit, and many more to permanently live.

Although it’s a true melting pot, those of us from the USA do tend to stand out every now and then, especially when we’re traveling as an entire IES group on tours.  We’ve toured many barrios and seen several typical famous landmarks.  My favorite tour thus far was yesterday, when I took a bike tour of the city with 7 other students.  It was great to see new locations while exercising and our  guides were fun and charming.

Even above the bike tour, the highlight of my experience was my tango night with 4 of my friends.  It all started one week ago when my host mom took me to “El Museo de Carlos Gardel” just hours after my arrival in BA.  We discovered free tango lessons there on Saturdays and one week later, there some of my friends and I were.  We learned some basics for about an hour then got invited to another invitation-only class that the adorable older instructors, Patricia and Cacho, were offering at another museum/cafe.  We had more tango class and got to dance with skilled Argentines then later in the night we danced with some Swiss (and very guapo) guys who were also students of our instructors.  After dinner, Patricia and Cacho, as well as an amazing guitarist/harmonica player, performed for us and then everyone danced more tango.  Nine hours and tons of fun later, we thanked Patricia and Cacho with muchisimas gracias and an hasta luego because they invited us to their classes this week.  We were so blessed to have found a little hidden gem of the city and all of us cannot wait to go back pronto!

While I love love love southern living in the US, I am absolutely obsessed with life a little further south as well.

Ciao –Ashlee

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Good Airs

“Buenos Aires” literally translates to “good airs,” and I was blessed to have very easy and safe travels here so I guess there’s something good in the air.  My flight landed before 9 this morning and ever since then I have not been bored.  The IES Abroad Staff greeted us at the airport and helped us get taxis.  My host mom, Nora, ran down the hallway of her building to greet me when I buzzed her apartment and she is so, so kind.  We had tea and gluten free cookies that she bought especially for me and talked with another IES student who will be staying here for a few days to take her last final exam.  After I unpacked my bags Nora took me on a little tour around her neighborhood, Recoleta, and the edges of some nearby neighborhoods.

One of the many buildings decorated with graffiti art.

It was really neat to see so much history and culture packed in between buildings in the forms of street graffiti, statues, parks, and more.  Nora told me the most interesting story about “Theater Cielo,” a theater where a performance is done for blind people.  She’s been and she said it was amazing.  My favorite thing we saw was the Carlos Gardel museum.  He’s the most famous Argentine tango dancer and Nora and I each paid 5 pesos (equivalent of just 91 cents) to tour the museum.  We also learned that the museum offers free tango lessons so I’m definitely going to take advantage of that!  I’ve already met the lady who runs the laundry mat, the doorman of Nora’s apartment building, and a lady who runs a fruit market down the street.

At the Carlos Gardel museum.

Main entrance of the Carlos Gardel museum. The museum was actually
Gardel’s home but was turned into a museum after his death.

Shopping area. Also in photo is a statue of Carlos Gardel- it would be in front of
the museum but it’s actually in this area due to more population from shopping.

I can honestly say that I am undergoing culture shock but it is way different than my first day in Chile a few years ago.  I’m excited to be here but I definitely miss the simplicity of LaGrange and my family and friends.  However, there have been multiple cultural Chilean things that I’ve already noticed here which has comforted me.  Oddly enough, the annoying sequence of car alarms that go off from cars at random made me smily and there are plenty of dongs on the streets here too, no worries yall.

So far day 1 has been fun and I’m excited about our City Bus Tour tomorrow.

 

 

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[‘bweno’saires] bound

When typing “Buenos Aires attractions” into Google, over 50 choices pop up.  Needless to say, I am not going to be bored this fall semester.  From museums to gardens to parks to statues, the capital city of Argentina has plenty to offer.

I’m two days away from boarding a 10 hour flight to Buenos Aires and I couldn’t be more excited!  And, if you ask me if I get nervous performing onstage in front of a packed audience or giving a speech to a large crowd, I can honestly say no.  However, I’ll admit that I’m freaking out at least a little about going abroad.  I know it’ll be the most amazing experience of my life to date though, just as every one of my previous abroad experiences has been.

For those who don’t know me, I’m a junior English and Spanish double-major at Wofford College and I aspire to work in broadcasting and journalism.  I couldn’t have picked a more amazing college to attend and I’ve been so blessed by the opportunities I’ve been given, especially through Wofford’s International Programs Office.  This will be my second time traveling abroad through Wofford (for Interim 2011 I studied abroad in Viña del Mar, Chile).  While I can’t wait to soak up all that Argentina has to offer, I’m hoping to make a quick visit over to Chile to visit my Chilean host family in Viña and 2 of my friends who are studying abroad there.

Below are a few of the many Buenos Aires attractions that I’m looking forward to seeing:

 

 

Teatro Colón is the main opera house in BA and it’s acoustically considered as one of the five best concert venues in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Recoleta Cemetery is located in the same neighborhood where I’ll be living.  Eva Peron, among many other famous Argentines, is buried here.

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

La Casa Rosada, also known as Casa de Govierno, is the executive office of the Argentine President.  The official residence of the President of Argentina is the Quinta de Olivos.  The current President of Argentina is Cristina Fernández de Kirchner who is serving her second term.

 

 

 

XO -Ashlee

 

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