Colonia, Uruguay



This blog is a little overdue, and a little out of order, but on the day before I left for Bariloche, I went to Uruguay! I new it would be a cool trip even before I went because it’s a whole new country I’d never been to before, and I was looking forward to coloring it blue on my Facebook “where I’ve been” map.

Honestly, I’d never really wanted to go to Uruguay before. It is a small, funny looking country with a really bizarre name, and no one has ever heard anything about it other than it’s there on the map. Still, I was stoked when I saw that my study abroad program includes 2 trips to Uruguay (we’re going back in September for 4 days to Montevideo and Punto del Este).

I am so in LOVE with Uruguay! BA is a cool city, but it’s huge and noisy and reeeaaallly dirty. Like, shockingly dirty. So it was really refreshing to get away from the city for awhile and just sit around in a quiet town for a bit. We went over there via the Buquebus, a huge ferry that takes 3 hours to cross the widest river in the world, Rio de la Plata. The Rio is quite brown, but impressively wide, and as we looked back over the city, there was a brown smear of smog in the sky. Delish.

When we arrived in Uruguay, we walked a short distance into historic Colonia, a small part of a bigger city. We looked around for a few minutes on our way to a restaurant, where all 18 of us sat in an inner courtyard and ate lomo (steak) sandwiches and chillaxed for a few hours. Then our program director, Augustín, who turned out to be quite the history buff, took us on a walking tour for about an hour. It was really interesting, because Colonia’s spot on the Rio was strategic for both Spain and Portugal back in the day, so it changed hands 7 times before finally being occupied and ruled by Spain until it’s independence. Augustín taught us things like how you can tell which buildings are Spanish (white with windows that are curved on top) and which are Portugese (stone with square windows).

That was also the first time most of us had really gotten to see Augustín’s personality and gotten to know him, and he is one funny guy. Meghan and I were trying to ask him about the mail system in Argentina, wondering if what we’d sent out and what our parents had sent us would ever get to where it’s going (he said yes, but its more likely no) and he kept saying “bien, bien, bien. Bien, bien…bien bien…” over and over again! (It means good/well/affirmative) But after awhile, we were like, “is he even listening to us??” It was actually pretty funny. As we walked past the cathedral in town, Augustín stopped us and said (very dramatically) “this is a very old church, but in 2000, something very important happened here…” and we were like “oooooo! What could it be?!?” And he said, “my wife and I were married here.” Awwww…so cute!!

Which actually reminds me, I haven’t told you yet about my newest list. I have a lot of lists, like places to go, things to do in my 20s, e-mails to send today, etc. The newest one is my TOP 10 PLACES TO GET MARRIED. I thought of it, because, as Augustín and his wife realized, Colonia would be a superb place to get married. So far, we have:

1. Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

2. Bariloche, Argentina

3. Colonia, Uruguay

4. Mt. Rainier, WA

5. Victoria, Canada?

Now, I’ve been thinking about making an ‘international edition’ of the list and a US edition because really, who’s going to go to Uruguay for my wedding? (PS, if you actually would, feel free to send me an e-mail or comment on this blog, so I can get a feel for how reasonable it would be for me to have my wedding on another continent.)

After our tour we had about an hour and a half of free time before we had to meet up to get back on the Buquebus to go home. We tried to rent mopeds and the place didn’t have any to give us, so Meghan and I went and rented bikes and rode all over town, taking pictures and basically just enjoying life in Uruguay. It was a fabulous day while it lasted, and then I was incredibly tired and cranky when I got home and had to pack for Bariloche, but a great day nonetheless. Totally loved it, it’s a very cute town and if you ever find yourself in BA, it’s a must-see.

Hey, maybe when I get home I’ll take my blog and publish it as a travel guide :D

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Patagonia, Round One


BARILOCHE

This is the story of my 8-day adventure in Patagonia. It was AMAZING—last Sunday I left with my 2 friends Meghan (from Buffalo NY) and Rebecca (Washington DC) on a bus that, in a mere 18 hours, took us to Bariloche, a small place I like to call paradise on the Chilean border. Bariloche is the biggest city in the Lake District, and it is on the southern side of Lake Nahual Huapi, the biggest of the lakes. I can’t put into words how beautiful it is there, and the 350 pictures I took over 4 days just don’t do it justice. There are 7 branches to the lake it is surrounded on all sides by the Andes Mountains. And there’s really no better place for an adventure than the Andes, right?

DAY 1. We arrived at 8 in the morning and took a nap at our hostel before going out to explore. In the main square there are photographers willing to charge people an arm and a leg to take their picture with a St Bernard puppy. Random. We went to the place where our travel agent had booked us an excursion and talked to Ulysses. He was like, “right, so we have you down for hiking and rappelling” and I thought to myself, “well, my travel agent is FIRED because we’re supposed to do something tame that doesn’t scare the living daylights out of me, like snowshoeing.” But for some reason I didn’t say that out loud…instead I just gave him more money to go snowshoeing a different day. Then we had a photoshoot at the lake :)

DAY 2. One of the many sweet things about our hostel (and I suppose a lot of hostels) is that we could cook our own food. So we did that on Monday and Tuesday nights, and took lunch with us to go sledding on Tuesday (day 2) and all of that at the grocery store cost 15 pesos, or 5 dollars each. So the trip was pretty affordable already, but even more so because we could do that. Also, Bariloche is famous for it’s chocolate, so on Monday and Tuesday we tried the guide book’s first and second choices (Mamushka and Benroth) and each chose a few kinds of chocolate to try, such as white chocolate with dulce de leche, mint and wiskey (my personal favorites) and had a chocolate tasting after dinner. I also made it a habit to drink delicious hot chocolate at a café after a long day in the snow. Sledding was fun, beautiful views from the top of Cerro Otto (Cerro pretty much means ‘Mount’ but not really. Monte means mount, but Cerro is just a really common term in the Argentine Andes).

DAY 3. I woke up and the idea of rappelling hadn’t really sunk in yet. (If you don’t know what rappelling is check out wikipedia: Its basically just walking backwards down a rock face and you have to be in control of whether you’ll fall or not). If you didn’t already know, I am absolutely terrified of heights. This was actually a really big day for me. I started out thinking about how I was mad at my travel agent (Andrea) for booking this excursion WITH OUT ASKING us if that was ok (we DEFINITELY told her snowshoeing). I don’t really know how to put this into perspective for you…but I was the only kid at outdoor school in 6th grade that didn’t make it to the top of the climbing wall at Camp Orkila. I only made it a 1/3 of the way up (what is that? Like 10 or 15 feet? Maybe 20?). So we hiked along in one of the most beautiful places ever, within sight of Chile, and met up with our guides, Marco and Marcelo.

We went up, up and up away from the lake, and that’s totally fine, because I’ve been working on my fear of heights lately. I climbed Mt St Helens at the end of May, and was totally fine the whole time, and then did a scramble (climbing up loose rock) at the top of Mt Si in mid-June, so I’m a LOT better than I was before. And they showed us this rock, and from the bottom, it didn’t look straight up and down, there were like…stairs? Stairs for a…giant? I don’t know, it was straight down, then out a little, then straight down some more. Even thinking about it makes my hands tingle. I went up to the top, and Becca went first, and I was definitely considering not following through, but I couldn’t pass up on this good of a story. I thought there would be some time between people but once Rebecca was out of sight on her way down, Mariano was like, ok, get over here! First of all, it did NOT help me that she got 2 ropes and I only got one, how is that fair? I was 50x more scared than she was. So anywho, I thought to myself, “I’ll just go to the edge and see how it feels” but all of a sudden I was roped up and there was this short rope I was clipped to for security, and he just unclips it! (Apparently once you’re clipped to the actual rope you don’t get to keep the other one). And Mariano and I were having this conversation in mixed Spanish and English about how I thought he was crazy and he was like, “just go. And remember: NEVER let go with your right hand! Ok bye!”). O, and he also yelled down that I should look around on the way down (I was hundreds of feet above the lake—no thank you!).

So I actually feel like I was tricked into rappelling. First of all because of Andrea, who planned it, and then because Mariano was showing me how to step back and how I should lean back, etc. and he took a couple steps with me, and at that point I was definitely still thinking about it, and he started going back up, and I stopped to think about how scared I was, and he was like, ok, keep going!

It was 40 meters, and it was AWESOME. It really was. As much as I like to be overly dramatic about things, I can’t wait to go rappelling again. There are certain things in your life that once you do them you know you can do anything. I knew I could rappel down that thing because of so many things I’ve done before. I’ve been living in Argentina for 5 weeks now, what can’t I do?

DAY 4. The feeling carried over to the next day when we went snow shoeing (with Marco and Mariano from the day before—yay!). I miss you guys (some days I miss Seattle and Orange a lot) but I really need to be here right now, and I’m so well taken care of—I have made friends here and found a church. I know God is always with me, but we all know that’s a little harder to grasp sometimes. I love that I’m out here trying all these new things on my own, because they’re my own experiences just for me. I think I’m going to do some indoor climbing before I come home…we’ll see :)

Snowshoeing was beautiful, and we stopped along the way so Marco could give us little lessons about the plants and animals of the area. Interestingly, there are a lot of Cypress trees there (which honestly means nothing to me) but the cool thing is that the underbrush is primarily bamboo cane—how exotic! And the other cool part is that 90% of our conversions were in Spanish. At one point as we hiked along, Marco turned around, and was like, “wait, how long have you been in Buenos Aires?” and I said a month, and he was like, “that’s not possible! Your Spanish is too good!”

As a side note, I’ve gotten really into Spanish lately. It’s been getting easier and easier and we met some cool people this week that we could practice with. I start my regular classes tomorrow, and I’m taking what is supposedly a really intense advanced Spanish class, and I’m excited to learn more. My other 2 classes are in Spanish too!

PUERTO MADRYN

After snowshoeing on Thursday we got on a bus to go from Bariloche to Puerto Madryn (in Atlantic Patagonia) to see the whales (and I was hoping Penguins too, but I’ll just tell you right now, that it didn’t happen). These buses are SO comfortable, and surprisingly, although I can’t sleep on planes or generally in cars, 2 out of the 3 nights I was on buses, I slept pretty well. I might even venture to say really well. However, this night on the way to PM was the night I didn’t sleep well. That was fine, but it’s worth mentioning that there are attendants on these buses that serve meals and show movies (always random movies no one has ever heard of: Next is the weirdest one I can think of right now). The attendants on the first and last buses were very helpful and nice, and this one, on the way to PM gets the points for being beautiful, but was REAL creepy. His name was Santiago, and he slept on the seat in front of Becca after inviting her to join him there (whoa). He really was beautiful, but after talking to him for a few minutes we didn’t want anything to do with him, which is too bad because there were only 8 people on the bus for the first 4 hours so he lingered for a significant amount of time.

DAY 5. We arrived at our hostel at 7am and while we waited for our room, we played with Jaime, a 2 month old puppy whose owner works at the hostel (adorable). Then after a nap that really wasn’t long enough, the 3 of us were very cranky and went out to find lunch. We felt a lot better after that, but had been spending a lot of time together, so needed a break. Also, I was sick all week, and Becca was about 2 days behind me on the sickness cycle, so it hit her the hardest in PM. Becca went back to the hostel to rest, and Meghan and I rented bikes to explore. We went to a little museum a few miles down the beach that had a lot of history about the first Welsh colonists who settled in caves along the beach in PM in the 1860s. So we left our bikes there and walked down to the beach to see the remains of the caves, and then walked along the water for a really long time.

As we walked back to our bikes on the road, there were whales out in the water!!! So cool. And we’d also been worried that we’d gone at the wrong time of year to see whales, so that gave us hope for the next day. And Meghan and I had so much fun together, we’re really compatible travel buddies.

DAY 6. On Saturday we had breakfast at the hostel with Kirk from California and Todd from Australia and then the 5 of us went whale watching with a bunch of other people. I sat next to this really fun Argentine woman named Marí who is very mom-like. She talked and talked with us for a long time and added on to what our tour guide was saying. We drove out onto the Valdes Peninsula which took like 1 ½ hours, just to get to Puerto Piramides where we put on ginormous blue ponchos (kirk got a bright orange one, that lucky dog) and extremely flattering life jackets and got in a boat that was probably smaller than a whale.

It isn’t even peak season yet, and once we got out into the water, there were whales EVERYWHERE! It was really cool, because I’d never been whale watching before. I’m pretty sure there are some kind of protection laws in the States where you can’t within a certain distance of whales, but luckily, that isn’t true here, so we got within about 15 or 20 feet. Totally awesome, although most of my pictures are of a single fin sticking out of the water. There would be 2 or 3 swimming alongside the boat, or one by itself floating on its back, bobbing up and down with its fins sticking up in the air. And they were ENORMOUS. (they’re called southern right whales, I’ve never heard of them before…)

We also learned all about the difference between Sea Elephants and Sea Lions, and saw them from a distance, but that wasn’t nearly as exciting, as it was right before lunch.

Later that night we went to dinner with Todd and Kirk and also Lisa and Diego who had arrived from BA that day. Lisa is one of those people you feel like you can connect with in about 10 seconds. For those of you who know Christy Lang, she is VERY similar to her, and for those of you who don’t know Christy Lang, then you’re missing out, and I can give you a more detailed description sometime. OK, I want to wrap this up soon, but Lisa is a middle school teacher from Calgary, Canada who does really fantastic stuff every summer, like spending 2 months in Argentina to improve her Spanish while living with distant relatives. We only spent 4 hours together, but it was really refreshing, like a little bit of home to keep me going. After dinner we all went to get ice cream and then walked out onto the pier and froze our faces off and then hit the sack.

DAY 7/8. Sunday we went back to the bus station with Todd, who was heading south to see the glaciers, and the 3 of us got on the bus with the loudest snoring man ever to walk the Earth. I was sad I couldn’t take Todd home with me, but, such is life. And that’s about it…we got to BA just in time to take the subte (subway) home during rush hour, and I’ve been sleeping and eating pizza ever since :)

It was really hard to leave Bariloche, so I’ve decided to become really outdoorsy and move back there to be a guide (if anyone wants to join me, you’re more than welcome to!)

I’m attaching some photos for you:
First, beauteous Lake Nahuel Huapi. Second, Sunset from Bariloche. Third, Becca and Meghan dressed for whale watching!

8 Random Things


Shmergie blogged about 8 random things about himself, and then came up with 8 random things about me. They are more or less true, but none are as true as number 8. Enjoy!

  1. Nicknamed “Pants”
  2. Single handedly brought the work “uber” back
  3. Is a Defending World Champion Spanish Flamenco Dancer, sorta
  4. Once climbed 1.8 mountains in 3 days
  5. Has an elephant named Babar (and a cow named Brie…both stuffed)
  6. Been to Romania
  7. Major in Poli Sci with a minor in Spanish and Economics
  8. Currently studying in Buenos Aires…aka BA…aka Bad Ass

Just so you know, I´m heading out to Uruguay tomorrow and then Patagonia on Sunday, and I´ll be back August 6th. More stories after that!

Pilates :)


I joined a pilates place yesterday, and it’s AMAZING! I went and took a free class, and totally loved it, so I paid for the next month’s worth. I can only afford 1 class a week right now, but I think next month I may budget for 2 classes a week. It’s a really nice place, very small, and the classes are done on exercise machines that provide resistance. There were only 2 of us in my class this week, so we got really personalized attention. The instructor was sooo nice, and I understood everything she said. And you know what’s even better? She understood me! She didn’t ask where I was from, and she gestured a lot when she was speaking, she didn’t try to speak English to me, and I never had to apologize for my Spanish.

So I decided that while I’m going to look amazing because of these classes, I need to do more. The main thing is that I should limit the number of delicious pastries I eat. I also need to figure out how to get some more veggies into my diet. Interestingly, I found that I have some extra time on my hands right now before dinner, and I found an article that has been saved on my computer for a few months. It’s all about training the core muscles (deep abs and hip abductors) to improve running form. It outlined a 9-week training plan, which would really complement my pilates work outs beautifully. I think I may get started on it tonight!

"Amigovio"


Friend with benefits, or, as my profesora explained in class, “un amigo que tiene derechos especiales…entiendes?” Best spanish word ever.

Church


On Sunday morning I went to church here for the first time. It’s a Baptist evangelical church called Cielos Abiertos (open heavens). There were prob. about 100 people there, and the service was 3 hours long. Now, normally, let’s be honest, no one wants to sit through a 3 hour service, but I honestly didn’t even look at the time while I was there. It was something like an hour of singing, dancing, praying, dancing and jumping around (even though the majority of people are older than my parents!) then an hour of a sermon from a converted jewish man from Jerusalem who was just visiting for a while. Then probably another hour of singing, dancing, jumping and praying. This is the coolest church ever!

Bethany Dixon (my new favorite person!) told me about this church, but she didn’t tell me how amazing it would be! Everyone arrives everywhere late here in Argentina, so I got to the 10:30 service at 10:20 and was awkwardly, AWKWARDLY the second person there, and everyone else got there after the service started, and it was full by 11. So I guess 3 ½ hours, not 3, because we were done at 2. Before it started, this uber nice girl, Vanessa introduced herself to me, and told me she’s going to help perfect my Spanish. After the service, the pastor tried to say 1 sentence to me in English, and she shushed him enthusiastically. She told me that all the young adults/kids our age in the church get together on Saturday nights to hang out and from what I gathered worship, eat and chillax. Sounds good to me! And, they’re all Porteños, so that makes them even cooler!

This Friday is el día del amigo, and there’s a big church get together in the evening, and I’m most definitely going! I guess el día del amigo is a pretty big deal around here? A lot of restaurants have signs that say “make reservations early for el día del amigo” or something to that effect.

I normally wouldn’t go to an evangelical church, but they’re just so friendly! And I feel like my accent is much better when I sing in spanish. God has blessed me in countless ways since I’ve been in BA, but this is the mother of all blessings, I really hope I get to spend a lot of time with the people I met there. There are quite a few people my age, and they’re genuinely excited about Christ and their faith. When I talked to the Chapman girls on saturday, chelsea asked me if I have any friends that are uplifting, and I do, but there’s just something different about sharing your faith with someone that is hard to find with other people.

Tango show!


On Saturday night, our group of 15 went to a tango show near San Telmo (a barrio in BA). It was so fantastic! I don’t really hang out with that group as much of the rest of them do, because I’m in a different class, so it was cool to get to know them a little better. We took a van from Belgrano, and when we arrived at the place, it was like this really old fashioned looking building—and we took a tango class for an hour. There were a bunch of people there—it’s included in the show, so everyone who later had dinner, etc. was there for the lesson. It was an L-shaped room with a narrow balcony around the outside, and it really reminded me of that JLo movie with Richard Gere. What’s it called? I have no idea.

Anyway, I really liked our instructor, she explained everything really clearly in Spanish, and then again in English, and when she spoke English she always said ‘estep’ instead of ‘step.’ It was so cute! I wish I spoke like that. I wish the waiter at the café I’m at right now thought my lack of skill in Spanish was an endearing accent instead of treating my like an annoying foreigner!

Anywho, then we had a DELICIOUS dinner of salad, steak and a brownie with ice cream for dessert. I’m not usually much of a wine drinker, but they had really good wine (the sweeter (wetter) the better for me) so I think I could try some more someday. I miss vegetables. Whoa, I almost said I miss salad. That would be extreme. Its not that I don’t like salad, it’s just that I need it to be a pretty good salad to really enjoy that. And the one I had on Saturday was such a salad. Also, I found that at lunch time at school they have salad as well, although not quite at the level of the tango place.

Getting back to the show though, I had a fantastic time getting to know the other students at my table a little better, they’re very fun. The show started during dessert, and there was a lot of singing that I didn’t quite follow, and the performers came out into the audience and sang to the girls and at one point, grabbed several audience members and danced with them between the tables. It was all very festive, and very well done. I definitely want to go to another tango show while I’m here!

Tiny Room


Mi cuarto pequeño. ¡Que lindo!

Snow and a new room


It’s so cold* here right now! On Monday, it snowed in BA for the first time since 1918! Yowza. So I brought my new northface jacket, but I’ve been layering sweaters underneath it and I’m going to stock up on a few more over the weekend. I’ve been a teeny bit sick (runny nose, sore throat) for the last 3 or 4 days, but I’m drinking lots of tea and trying (fairly unsuccessfully) to go to bed early.

The big news in my life right now is that I moved into my permanent room here at home! You know about how big a shoe box is? That’s what my room is like. I’m posting a picture of it so you can get the full effect. As you can see, my bed is half the width, with room for a desk plus a few inches next to it. I have a book case and a closet that actually give me a lot of space for organization. My only issue with the room is that I have a lamp that doesn’t work all the time, and only one electrical outlet that doesn’t work all the time. Hmmm, I’m going to steal a lamp and a surge protector from Tyler’s room when he moves out. Yay! I’ve thought about just stealing the room, but I think of it as his room too much already. And we’re getting a new girl to replace him! It’ll be weird being the one that “knows what’s going on” (because I won’t actually know) but Kim and I are both hoping the girl is really cool. And why wouldn’t she be?

Next exciting thing coming up is that our group is going to a tango show Saturday night. More to come on that!

PS. Devan and Liz: I know you were excited for the down comforter possibility (haha, I wrote comfortable the first time!) but I have bad news. The comforter was Matt’s. I just have a regular one because he took it home with him when he left on Sunday. It turns out it was worth it to him to shlep it down here because he knew he’d be too tall for any bed here, and wanted some form of comfort. Darn! I should have used it when he was here ;)

*¡Hace mucho frío!

Trapped in an elevator


On Sunday night Argentina played Peru in the Copa América (American Cup) so naturally we all gathered for the festivities at Anne and Alicia’s apartment in Recoleta. These two girls are in my class at UCA and are from American University in DC. They are staying at a friend’s vacation place until they move into their real apartments with argentines. Anyway, this place is uber fancy, and takes up the whole 5th floor of the building. So we hung out there for a few hours after the soccer game, and then decided to go down the street for ice cream a little after midnight (I love how everything’s open so late here!). Three people decide to go down the stairs, because we wouldn’t all fit into the elevator.

The key to this story is that elevators in apartment buildings in BA tend to be really old, the kind that has a door you open on the outside, and then like a cage door that slides across on the inside. The elevators where I live are manual like this too, and often when they stop, they aren’t exactly lined up with the floor when they stop either. So in this particular elevator, there was a regular wooden door that opens outward, and then the slidey cage door.

Seven of us got in the elevator. Now, I don’t know the limit there, but at home its definitely 3—but this elevator didn’t say. When we got to floor 0, or ground level, we were a good 8 inches below the floor. No big deal, right? Definitely a big deal. The wooden outer door wouldn’t open. Our friends on the outside tried to run up the stairs and call the elevator to get it moving, or to find a neighbor or doorman to help. We even tried jumping simultaneously and hitting the 0 floor button again. The alarm button didn’t do anything, and the ‘stop’ button actually just pushed straight back into the wall, leaving a hole there…so I guess that one doesn’t so much do anything.

We got a good video of us in there, which I’ll try to put on Facebook or something soon. A few people weren’t too pleased, but really, how often are you stuck in an elevator? At least this one we had the means to try to force the door, and it wasn’t airtight, so we had oxygen to spare. I don’t know what I would have been able to do in a regular, modern elevator.

We ended up getting out after about 20 minutes. Noah balanced on a ledge and reached up to the top of the outer door. He unscrewed an electrical looking box thing with Alicia’s insurance card and lifted a latch that opened the door.

What did I learn from this experience? Going out for ice cream isn’t an adventure if you just go out for ice cream, hopefully something like that happens every time I try to do something so simple in the future :)

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