Forever Thankful

I have gone through so many life altering experiences with 31 amazing now life long friends. I guess ill begin my blog by thanking those 31. Thank you. Thank you for helping me open my eyes to the world, for teaching me to look at things at different angles, for your support through my breakdowns, for laughing at my dumb jokes, for your much needed hugs, for pushing me to go out of my comfort zone, for being friends I know I can count on my whole life. I never knew that when I signed up for this program, I signed up to meet some of the most incredible people I have ever known. When I signed up for this program I hoped that by the time it was over I would have some answers to my big questions, like: what should I do with my life? But this program only left me with more questions but that is something I am so grateful for, I have seen things that were horrible and great but opened my heart and eyes to the world and I am even more dedicated to making a difference. Now, I don’t know how I’m going to do that but I know I have a lot of reflecting to do. But for now I want to thank God for putting me on this amazing journey, parents and friends and boyfriend for their amazing support and my amazing IHP crew of 31 for making this the most life altering experience that will be apart of me forever.

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My CA!

I have completed my baby, my prize possession, my will to live ( ok that was a little too intense). But I finished my CA!  For those of you that don’t know what that is it is a personal Comparative Analysis project that each of us on IHP have been working on in all three countries. We all pick a topic and then we compare that topic and learn about it in each country. I chose to learn about how people in each major religion thinks of destiny and what they do to try and affect it. I interviewed and prayed with Hindus in India, Muslims in Senegal and Catholics in Argentina.  I made amazing relationships that I will never forget. The hardest part though, was writing a 6 page paper and doing an 8 minute presentation because I could have written a 20 page paper and done a 30 minute presentation. I have learned so much, please when I get back to the states feel free to ask me about it because I would love to share with you what I learned because I think everyone should learn about people in different cultures that they don’t know about because if not that is when assumptions and judgement and hate come about.

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Riding With A Legend

Can I just tell you I had the most amazing day today. A few days ago my parents came to Buenos Aires, I am so blessed to have them here. Anyways, today we went to a campo, which is basically a ranch. When we arrived our tour guide told us we were riding horses and my mom an I looked at each other.. What!.. We were not mentally prepared for this. We have had some difficult horse riding times and were very hesitant about this, especially being told 10 minutes before we got on the horses. When we walked up to the horses there was this little man with a bent over back and a huge mustache wearing the traditional Goucho clothing. ( Gouchos are like cowboys I’m Argentina). We got introduced to this adorable old man named Oscar,  he got us on our horses and he led us through the Pampas. In my horrible Spanish I talked to my new friend Oscar and tried to learn about the Goucho life. He said he has worked at that campo for 21 years but he left school at the age of 10 to live in the country and learn how to be a Goucho. I fell in love with this man while he talked slowly and told me about his favorite horse named Paco and when I said I was sorry my Spanish was bad he said it was fine and that I am very nice… My heart melted. When the horse ride ended I thanked my friend and then went into the house to have some lunch. I suddenly saw my Goucho friend’s picture all over the wall. I asked our guide and he said that every year there is a huge parade in this area for all of the Gouchos in Argentina and for the last two years he has carried the flag and led the parade. Apparently there is a very famous book about Gouchos in Argentina and his grandfather is named, so now he keep the legacy alive! How cool right!? I was riding with a famous Goucho…wow!

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Help Others Through Education

Through my interviews and experiences in all three countries I have learned that there will always be poverty as long as there are uneducated people and the only way to fight poverty is through education.

While I was in a slum called Hollywood during my time in India, I talked to a man named Amid. He is a street vendor of watches and belts and he lives in Hollywood. He overheard us talking to another man about the bad conditions in Hollywood and he joined in on the conversation.  He told us that he earns about 300 to 400 rupees a day as a street vendor and more than half of that money goes to the education of his children. He uses his money to make sure his children go to private school because believes the government schools in the area, which are free to attend, have horrible teachers that do not care about teaching their students. Amid believes that the only way for his kids to have a positive future is through education. He stresses the importance of education to his kids but he told me that his kids have pressures from their friends in Hollywood to skip school. Amid told me that most of the kids in Hollywood do not go to school and when his children are walking to school their friends in Hollywood tell them not to go. Amid thinks that these uneducated kids are providing a bad influence to his children and Amid says that the reason the other kids do not see the importance in education is because their parents are uneducated. All of Amid’s neighbors are uneducated but Amid went to school until the tenth grade. Amid says he understands the importance of education and how it can lead to a better life but his neighbors do not. Amid said he tried to tell his neighbors that they should send their kids to school but they got mad at him and shut their doors on him. He believes that the reason there is so much poverty is because there are so many uneducated people. Amid believes that the only way to rise up out of poverty is through education and he believes that the families have to take the initiative to put their children into school.

When I was in Senegal I had a conversation with my host brother’s friend named Kareem. He told me that it is extremely hard to graduate high school here but he understands the need for dedication because he knows he can never honor his family if he does not have a job and he knows he cannot have a decent job unless he has an education. He kept his notes from class with him all the time even when he did not have school; it seemed to me like he thought of them as a prize possession or something.

Just a few days ago we learned about the horrible 2001 economic crash in Argentina that left thousands without jobs. I visited MTD in La Matanza, which is outside the city limits of Buenos Aires. This social organization helps out the community by making jobs but we learned that their number one priority is the kindergarden that they created. They told us that the kids that were born during the time of the economic crash, most of them never saw their parents go to work. This caused an issue because the kids didn’t know the importance of work so they did not go to school because they did not see their parents go to work. MTD started this kindergarden so that the kids could learn at a young age how important school is and so that they can continue their education to one day have a job so that they can feed their family.

Throughout my experiences in my own life I have also seen the importance of education. A few summers ago I traveled to Uganda with a non-for profit organization called Building Tomorrow. The organization builds primary schools in rural parts of Uganda to help give children a better future. My experience in Uganda was the first time I realized the importance of education and how it is pivotal for someone to overcome poverty. My mom always told me that if I did not go to school then I would have to work at McDonalds for the rest of my life. Before my experience in Uganda I only thought of education as a way to have a well respected and well paying job. My time in Uganda made me realize how importance education is and how it really can give someone a longer and healthier life because it can take him or her out of poverty.

For those of you that know, it is my birthday on April 30th.  There is nothing I would want to wish for more on my birthday, than to help others. Through my experiences on this trip and other times through my life I have learned that it is a lot more difficult wish than it seems.  What are the first steps? What is the right thing to do? Well, I do know how important education is and how it is needed all over the world and I have seen first hand the amazing things that Building Tomorrow can do. So for those of you who are thinking of getting me a birthday gift or just want to make a difference in this difficult world we live in please just donate to:

Thank you!


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Too Many Great Things To Do

Argentina has so many fun things to do it is almost ridiculous. There are the usual tourist sites one must see and on top of that there are cool things going on all around the city all the time that I always want to see. It is so sad that we only have 5 weeks here and this is the country where we have the most work due.

Every weekend there are awesome craft and art fairs in different parts of the city. It makes me feel like Buenos Aires is such an artsy city. I have definitely enjoyed the fairs in Palermo, San Telmo and Recolea and they have enjoyed my wallet.

Last weekend I went to a salsa and tango class. I felt so proud of myself when I learned the basic steps of both dances that I didn’t mind all the creepy old men asking me to dance. I have to say though; my favorite part of the tango lesson was when I was practicing my newly learned steps of tango with my dance partner Lars (who is in my IHP group) and we both were trying to get the basic steps down. This woman who had to be about 70, in a tight read velvet dress and her black lacy bra poking out tapped me on the shoulder and in Spanish told me how I am not dancing sexy enough and I need to take slow steps and slide my feet. I did my best but I don’t think i can ever make it to her sexy status.

Last night I went to this to the theatre called Teatro Ciego. I loved it. It is a blind theatre. So you get walked to your seat in a pitch-black room and you don’t know if your eyes are open or closed. Through the performances the room is full of different smells when the scene changes. There was one scene when a guy swam through a river and I swear it sounded like there was a river in the room. I probably would have enjoyed it more if it was in English because then I would have known what was going on the whole time but I still loved how much it played with your senses.

I have a long list of to-dos for this city and I am already exhausted all of the time. I hope I at least get through half of the things I want to do!


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A Scar Still Fresh For Argentina

Buenos Aires has some jaw dropping history that is still fresh in the minds of the people today. In the late 1970s and early 1980s there was the dirty war. This was a time where the military took over the government. During this time anyone who was against the military or friends of people who were against the military suddenly disappeared. Somewhere around 30,000 people disappeared at this time. It was only after this horrible time that it was found out that people were tortured or killed or thrown into the river from a helicopter only to drown while unable to move. This was something we learned about the first day of class but as I have walked around the city and talked to people I have realized that the horror is still not gone. People’s loved ones are still “missing” and remembrance walks by the family members of the missing still happen once a week. I asked my host mom what she remembered of that time period and she said she said she knew it was a bad time to be in Argentina at the age of 20 so she got a flight attendant job so she could leave the country for that time. My country coordinator named Carolina was much younger at this time (like in grade school) but she still had some incredible stories to share. She told me that she lived 5 blocks away from a detention center where the military tortured citizens. She said her parents had no idea what was going on and did not find out till the military was thrown out of power. She said that her grandparents lived 2 blocks from another detention center and also had no idea what was going on. She said that her grandpa was walking the dog one day and got stopped by a police officer saying he couldn’t walk in front of this certain building and her grandpa didn’t understand and just argued saying that he walks his dog there every day and he should be able to walk his dog. She also told me the frightening story of how her grandparent’s neighbors found three naked men in their backyard one night and the men said they were robbed so her grandparent’s friends gave them clothes and then they disappeared. When the horror came out that that was a detention center, her grandparents found out that only three men were ever able to escape. After these men escaped only a few weeks later her grandparents remember the building randomly blowing up one day and were confused why a house got demolished. Carolina remembers playing I the rubble with her brothers and throwing rocks around. When she got older she learned what that rubble once was and she said she vomited. This is such a fresh scar in Argentina’s history it scares me that I never knew about it before this.  I am sure there are so many world tragedies happening all the time all over the world that I know nothing about. How scary is this world that thousands of people can be killed for almost no reason and it is not a world tragedy. This world is a crazy place. As my host mom said tonight: this world needs to learn to put humanity before money and then our world will be a better place.

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HOLA Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is so different from Delhi and Dakar, it has taken a few days for me to wrap my head around were we are. When we first arrived the first thing I noticed on our bus ride in was the sidewalks. Real sidewalks!! I haven’t seen those in a while. Also I can brush my teeth with the sink, which, I have to say is a great luxury.

I am already settled in my home stay and it is amazing. I am in a house with a mom and her 16-year-old daughter. The house is beautiful because my host mom uses her home as a gallery to sell art so there the home is filled with beautiful art.  This house is also amazing because it is the only home stay I have been in during IHP that has 1. Toilet Paper 2. Automatic hot water 3.  A puppy and a Kitty 4. A bidet (which I have yet to use) 5. Fresh fruit and vegetables that I can eat

I also live in this neighborhood, which is called Palermo Soho. It is so posh and hip and I am definitely not cool enough to live here. Everyone here is so fashionable and hippy-ish. I love it!

I keep comparing Buenos Aires to Paris and find them very similar. In the area where I live many of the buildings look like the ones I have seen in Paris and it seems like a fashion capitol like Paris. It is also a love city like Paris, there are lingerie stores on every other corner and I have yet to go through the day with out seeing at least four couples making out.

This city is so “developed” and “westernized” compared to Delhi and Dakar. I am still trying to figure out why SIT picked Buenos Aires as one of our destinations because this easy is much easier to handle compared to the other two. I am so excited to learn about how the city came to be and see its issues and triumphs.

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Leaving Senegal with Conflicted Feelings

It is easy for me to say that this study abroad has been difficult. Not only academically but physically and emotionally. This spring break has been so needed. A few of us pitched in to rent a house in Saly, which is like the French tourist capitol in Senegal. Our house is amazing! Not only does it have toilet paper, hot water and an oven but it also has this pool that I have barely left. The reason I have barely left this house is because I am so sick of being harassed by Senegalese men. Never leaving me alone and asking me to buy things or come with them or just following me. Now don’t misinterpret me, I really have loved my time in Senegal and the relationships I have made and the things I have learned but I am also ready for my next country.  This country has been very complicated and a rollercoaster of emotions for me, in a completely different way than India was. When we arrived in Senegal we learned how it is the country of Teranga. Teranga is this unbelievable welcoming that I felt in my home stay and their friends in Dakar and the entire village we visited in Samba Kalla. So there is this country that is so welcoming but yet at the same time so many people have been robbed in our group while we have been here and so many people harass us just because we obviously look like we are not from here. It is confusing because we are told to feel comfortable because there is a beach nearby and its warm and this country is known for being very welcoming but at the same time whenever I walk around I feel like a target. I am still struggling with this concept and I am lucky to have this week off by a pool to think about it. Even though I have felt uncomfortable for a large amount of time in Senegal I will never forget the amazing conversations I had and the amazing friends I made and the events that have taken place that have taught me so much and I am so grateful for.

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Connotations of being American

A few days ago our IHP was asked to sit in and listen to a presentation specifically for us at the Mayor of Dakar’s office. Our visit to the Mayor’s office really made me think more about what it means to be a United States citizen. Through out the presentation, all I could think about was whether the lecture was just their presentation of Dakar or if it was a lecture made for privileged and educated American students. When I was talking to one of my brothers in my home stay he talked about how great America is and how he is taught in school that the U.S. is the leader of the world. He also told me that if America somehow dies or crashes then the whole world will die because the United States is like the head to the body of the world and if you cut off the head then the body can no longer survive. That talk with my brother was very present in my mind during the presentation at the Mayor’s office and made me think about why they asked us to come and what they chose to tell us. When someone asked a question regarding cultural centers they responded by telling us they are planning to build a movie theatre. That answer seemed very obvious to me that they were trying to impress us with their ideas buy including very western ideas in their future plans. This really brought to life some of the Politics and Development readings and discussions we have had through out this semester. Many city planners in developing cities look at western cities as models to put their city on the global map. Through the readings and discussions in class I have come to believe that this can be a negative impact on the city because city planning for one city usually does not work in another city with a different culture. It concerned me that the mayor’s office’s presentation seemed like they wanted to make their city more Western and to do that they would take away some of the things that did no typically fit in a Western society.

The fact that they asked us to write a letter to them about their presentation and give them suggestions about Dakar really made me aware of who people think I am based on where I come from. I really believe that they wanted our suggestions because we are American students and it is taught in Senegal that the United States is the best country in the world and because we are from there we would tell them how to make Dakar more like the U.S. This situation at the mayor’s office is one example which shows how being in Senegal has really made me realize that no matter how much I want to fit into the places I visit around the world, people will almost always see me as firstly a white female U.S. citizen and along with that might come some connotations I have issues with. This is something that still upsets me and I am trying to learn how to deal with it and I hope the rest of IHP will teach me how to accept who I am even though people may assume negative ideas about who I am because of how I look and where I am from.

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Slowly Putting India Into Words

Today I had a great Politics and Development class. P&D is a class that one of our traveling faculties is in charge of. We have about three of these for each country. The class today really helped me piece together some thoughts of India that I have had trouble putting together. Today the class was about resistance and different forms of resistance. We talked about Marxism, Gramsci’s theory and Foucault and Lefebvre’s theories. It provoked all kinds of thoughts and discussion about what kinds of resistance we have seen.  It made me think about what we are taught in Western societies about slums. They are dirty and sad and just over all horrible. The Indian government in various areas in India is trying to get rid of slums, which ends up displacing people and leaving them without a home. Through my experiences in India I have learned that they are trying to change the dynamic of some cities and make them more “Western” but they don’t realize that another countries ways do not work for other countries.  This talk about resistance finally helped me put into words how I feel about slums. I think that people need to realize that a slum is a form of resistance because people actually choose to live there and consider it their home. So next time you see slums try not to make negative assumptions because a person choosing to live in a slum is actually resisting the western idea that slums are overall bad and need to go.

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