Sunday, September 26, 2010

Westward Wanderings

My brother worked on a cattle ranch in Montana for the summer. When my summer job took an unexpected downhill turn (they closed our branch), I seized the opportunity to do a Westward bound road trip. We had two weeks and a lot of destinations to hit, and we did a pretty good job at seeing most everything we set out to see.

Beartooth Cattle

This is a slideshow of many of the places we explored:

Rocky Coast

Every other summer, my mother’s side of the family heads to Maine for a two-week getaway. My grandmother grew up in Maine, and her brother and 106-and-counting year old mother both still live there. My mom is one of five children, so the house is always packed and the tables overflowing.
The best part of these biannual trips is the food. We are a “cooking” family, blessed with more than a few talented chefs. Each year is a mini Iron Chef competition, each branch working to wow the crowd. I am a happily designated food-eater and dish-washer.

Beach by our house

After dinner comes a round of card games, Clue, or—the group favorite—charades. We are a competitive family. Our mother taught us young to “breast our cards” as she handily guessed all of our cards in Go Fish. Charades always brings out this playful competition…each team trying generating increasingly difficult or embarrasing clues.  The game that will always go down in infamy is when fourteen-year-old me tried unsuccessfully to act out “Debbie Does Dallas” to my confused team of my father, grandmother, nine year old brother, and uncle….the FULL two minutes. Needless to say, Maine is always full of good family fun, but it’s not necessarily always wholesome.

This year in Maine was slightly shorter due to increasing grown-up responisbilities and limted time schedule; however, our retreat to the rocky coast had all the restorative powers I remember from my childhood. Each year the cousins get taller, but the food always stays fantastic.

Fruit Pizza: Always the kids' favorite dessert to make

Thursday, September 23, 2010


My sister graduated from college this May, soon after I arrive back home. Her graduation provided a perfect excuse for a big family reunion right after my arrival: perfect timing! Family was one of my biggest motivations to come back to my home state, and I had a great time seeing and re-connecting with everyone. We had a crowd of 16 cheering her across the stage.

The family

Sister and pony Castine

Ginormous new addition to the family: an F-250 Super Duty with an 
extended new wheels for the pony.

New Beginnings

I arrived back to the states in May. Since my arrival, my life has been a whirlwind of travelling, family, friends, and general summertime gallivanting. My blog fell to the wayside as I began transitioning back to living in the states and getting busy seeing all of the wonderful people that I’ve been missing for so long. Now, I’m giving my blog a slight face-lift: a new look for a new stage of life.  And here I will also chronicle my summer exploring new areas around the states.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The things that make my heart smile

The time has finally come for me to leave Argentina. Preparing for my trip back, I've made a list of the things that I love—the things that I will miss—about living in Argentina. 

·      Asados: First and foremost. Asados are not only a fantastic excuse to eat an inadvisable amount of delicious red meat and cow bits, but they are an opportunity for friends to gather and spend the day together.
·      All things sweet: dulce de leche, chocotorta, alfajores, panaderias in general....mmmm
·      Fernet
·      Dogs that don't need leashes and loyally follow their masters around or wait patiently outside shops
·      Greeting everyone with a kiss
·      The wait staff at Sarkis (and, of course, the comida)
·      Jacaranda trees

·      Long walks through the city
·      Dancing
·      Saying "hello" and "goodbye" to every person individually
·      Shopping on the subte (One day, I was making a mental “to do” list on my commute on the subte. As soon as I remembered that I had to pick up a sewing kit before going home, someone put one on my lap: amazing!)
·      Mate: As with many Argentine traditions and rituals, sharing mate is social in nature and can be oh-so addicting
·      Meriendas
·      The hours: I'm a pre-programmed night owl
·      Long dinners with lots of wine that turn into your night out
·      Talking to the fruit and vegetable guy to find out what's the freshest of the day, hearing about the butcher's latest concert, and generally having personal relationships w the people you get your food from

·      Empanadas
·      It's OK to show up late
·      Spending quality time with friends without binge drinking (or even drinking at all)
·      Your job is not your life or identity
·      Cafe cortados
·      Less materialism
·      Snack food: frutigran, marroc, 3D chips, Paso de los Toros Pomelo, sandwiches de miga, twistos
·      Free delivery...for EVERYTHING (pizza, ice cream, McDonalds, booze)
·      Patience and understanding for those learning Spanish
·      The parks, especially the Bosques de Palermo

·      The waiter will not bother you or try and rush you through your lunch or dinner
·      There's always a kiosko open somewhere...and they probably have it
·      Bold fashion choices
·      I got to be "exotic"....being a blondie (and a foreigner) in Argentina was a lot of fun
·      Embracing creative outlets (release your inner artist!!!)
·      Beautiful gene pool
·      It's a highly social city: There's always something going on, and someone to go to it with (cumple, asado, despedida, 2x1 mondays at freddo...always something on the agenda!)
·      Roof terraces with parillas
·      Interesting graffiti/art

·      Public transportation that goes everywhere (at pretty much anytime)
·      Ice cream
…and finally of course…
·      The people I've met here, Argies and extranjeros alike: YOU are the reason I fell head-over-heels for this crazy place

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Prescription Movie

The cinema is my personal remedy for the blues. You know those moments—when you’re feeling sad, or nervous, or homesick. Everyone has their own way to fend off the cold pricklies: some turn to the bottle; some turn to the fridge; I turn to the big screen.

The movie theater is a two hour long escape.  I can voyeuristically dive into whatever story I choose. Moreover, once I’m sitting in that squishy seat, popcorn and smuggled beverage in hand, I could really be anywhere in the world. A cinema looks the same on the inside everywhere: dark. You get to forget where you are and who you are even it it’s just for the afternoon.

I am perhaps lucky in that I’m from the states and Hollywood movies have a global reach. I might be seeing it a few months later, but watching movies while abroad I feel like I could easily be in my hometown brushing popcorn off my shirt.

I don’t often feel homesick. Over the past ten years, I have lived outside of the house that I still claim as my “permanent residence” due to my constantly impermanent location. It’s now been well over a year since I’ve been back to the states. Technology like Skype allows me to talk to—and see—my family about once a week. Now that a hemisphere separates us, I speak with them more than I did when I was only a three hour drive away. Although I’m still very “connected,” I’ve started feeling those telltale pangs of homesickness in the past few weeks or so. This is maybe fueled by the knowledge that my trip back is impending, so I’m now homesick in anticipation of my return.

Endings are bittersweet—especially when it’s the end of something that you’ve enjoyed so much. I’m ready to bring this chapter of my life to a close. Ready to start all over again yet again. I’m a little nervous for my return but looking forward to being back and seeing everyone. I’m excited to start a more permanent life. To not worry about fitting it all in two suitcases. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t still hard to say “good-bye.”

So with these ambivalent feelings about the end to my two-year-and-four-month adventure in Argentina, I’m turning to my own prescription: a trip to the movies. I get to sit back and relax, and I don’t have to worry about fitting two years in two suitcases for a few hours.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


When it comes to general smack talking, your country is like your family. You're allowed to complain and highlight faults; however, as soon as anyone else mutters a word against it, that patriotic gland in your brain explodes and you rush to its defense. Both are flawed. Both sometimes do things that embarrass you. Both helped weave the fabric from which you were cut. You can bitch about your family or your nation. But God help others who attempt this within earshot. You have the same intrinsic unconditional love for your country that you do for your family. Each person has different feelings towards their country: some relationships are close; some are estranged. Even in a strained relationship, that basic tie is undeniable.
I have been living as an expat outside of my country—the states—for over two years now. The label "expatriate" alone implies a distinct detachment from the mother ship. From this detachment, I have gained a unique perspective and ability to look at my home sweet home through different lenses. Watching major events happening in the states from another place, such as the elections of 2008, gave me a different (and perhaps more complete) view of the place that I'm from. Being an American abroad, you expect a certain level of comments. The shift in anti-American (or really, I should say North American) sentiments after the election was tangible. Even with the greatly improved reception after Obama's election, people still have very nasty things to say about the place I call home. Although the world has been infiltrated by Hollywood and Levis, not many people admit to being a fan of the states. After time, you learn when you should step in and when you should just roll your eyes and continue with your day.
As far as treating your country as your family, Argentines take the metaphor to the extreme. Many constantly complain about the corrupt government or how things never work or run well amongst themselves. No one likes Kirchner. No one likes to wait in the long lines. No one likes doing paperwork. However, to any extranjeros, or when visiting other places, Argentines tend to be incredibly proud, extolling on the wonders of the beef, football, and women of their country. Everywhere has its pros and its cons, and hearing about the positive aspects of the place you call home is great. No one wants to hear a visitor bitching about their house.

I'm not exactly sure when or where my slow evolution from tourist to something in-between began, but I have started becoming defensive about Argentina to non-native travelers. I visibly cringe when I overhear tourists loudly complaining about lousy service or how laughably "third world" everything is. I am amazed at things that come out of people's mouths...especially the freshly arrived. Is this some sort of superior-tourist complex that I have? As an extranjera, I don’t want to be represented by the mobs screaming in English and talking about what a great deal everything is in pesos. I work hard to learn the language and learn about the culture, but whenever I walk into a new restaurant or kiosko, I’m automatically put in the “turista” category with all the rest.
Although at times I also cringe when I spot noisy, drunk groups of Americans while out, I can’t listen to people complain about the states…especially people who have never been there or made an effort to get to know anyone from there. The actions of one person or one government do not represent an entire nation. There’s nothing that makes my blood boil like listening to a stream of America-bashing from people who have little contact with the states. Living abroad has made me realize some of the things that make my home country special and that there will always be things that I love about my home. And no one talks smack about my home…

Monday, April 19, 2010

A few of my favorites

After four very fast months living in Bariloche, I'm heading back to Buenos Aires in a few days. Thought I'd close my southern adventure with a list of some of my favorites:

My favorite...
  • Cerveceria: La Cruz, Nilpi y Pioneros: They make great beer; it's not as commercialized and crowded as some of the others; and best of all, I live a half a block away!
  • Chocolate: Mamushka, Mitre y Rolando: It's the most famous and most touristy, but that's for a reason: their chocolate is incredible. Stop in for a cafe and medialuna while you're stocking up. They make the best medialunas I've ever had.
  • Beach: Mi roca privada (a little rocky outlook near my house, around km 4.5); after that, the beaches on Lago Moreno
  • Refugio: Jakob (It's hard to choose just one though...Meiling and Frey are also favorites)
  • Hostel: Green House: It has a great onda and is run by three brothers who are really helpful and knowledgable about the area....and a lot of fun :)
  • Day hike: up to and around Refugio Lopez
  • Tea House: Bellevue: They have amazing cakes and cappuccinos. The setting is perfect as well...tucked in a little garden with great views
  • Shopping: Kaia, Diseno Independiente, Moreno 69: features a lot of Argentine designers and has a lot of great hidden gems
If you ever find yourself in Bariloche, be sure to take advantage of these great spots!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Shifting Tastes

Since moving abroad, I have gradually evolved and changed in ways that I cannot yet identify. My own personal attachments have dropped off after time. Certain comforts that I always lived with suddenly weren't an option, but after my long stretch here I no longer notice most of the things I found myself missing when I first arrived. One of the most distinct and clear shifts that I have experienced is the change in my tastebuds. Those who have visited Argentina know that they have a few food items that they do fantastically: beef, empanadas, ice cream, pasta, milanesa, and a few others. However, other than their 'specialties,' Argentine cuisine tends to lack in flavor. Nothing is spicy, but even more than that, the spectrum of tastes is very narrow. They have a few restaurants that offer alternative cuisine, but their versions of "Mexican" or "Indian" are so watered down that it only really acts as a tease.

I was a hot-sauce fanatic in the states. I prided my ability to throw down with the best of them, drowning most everything I ate in hot sauce to the point where everything just tasted like hot sauce. Yes, I was even one of those who carried around a mini bottle of tabasco in her purse. My parents came to visit me in Buenos Aires for the first time in late May of 2008, a mere five months into my adventure. I, of course, intructed them to bring me one of my favorite hot sauces: sriracha chili sauce ("rooster sauce" mmmmm). I blissfully poured said sauce all over my food as I would have back home: PAIN. I started sweating and tearing up, my face turned bright red, and I couldn't really taste much for the next day and a half. The tastebuds just can't take it anymore.

On the flip side, I have actually begun tasting all of my food. I now use what I previously considered a "wimpy portion" of spice on my food and can still enjoy the flavor of the actual food. I've started really liking things that have much subtler flavors than before, such as flan or other creamy/custardy treats. I tend to cook for myself frequently. One common complaint in Argentina is that they don't serve many vegetables, but if you're cooking for yourself that's easy to remedy. Your neighborhood fruit and veggie vendor is always a good person to get to know. He'll let you know what fruit is in season and which vegetables are freshest.

The most telling food preference--my hangover cure--has now changed to the uber-Argie milanesa a la napolitana. I believe this one is perhaps the most important switch. That food that you turn to to comfort you, make everything better, and absorb the evilness churning in your stomach is perhaps truly the closest to your heart. A milanesa is a thin slice of breaded meat that is either fried or baked. The "a la Napolitana" means that it's covered in a thin slice of ham, cheese, and marinara sauce. A big hug for the tummy. As a side note, it's also amazing how many dishes ham and boiled eggs sneak in to here. Even when not listed on the menu, both sneak their way in.

The states has a huge variety of food that Argentina just doesn't carry. We are a flavor explosion. An endless smörgåsbord of sauces. I still have the occasional nostalgic twang for good Indian takeout or peanut butter, but overall my food cravings have switched to the food here. I am in my final weeks here in Argentina and talking to all my family and friends about coming back. My mom has asked me a few times what I want my first meal back to be. Strangely enough, I can't even begin to decide. I no longer have my top ten list of food I miss from the states. I know there are things that I still miss--a good sandwich, asian cuisine--but I'm at a loss to choose anything. I'm looking forward to the surprise when I get back.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

El Bolson

I took a weekend trip to El Bolson, the hippie cousin of Bariloche. It's only two hours from Bariloche by bus and is the organic eater's paradise. There's a huge market most days that offers homemade EVERYTHING. My friend and I got homemade empanadas, a fresh vegetable tarta, tried a few different microbrews, and bought a bunch of ripe raspberries for the bus ride home. Definitely a successful trip.
El Bolson is a farm-based village and specializes in everything casero. Even the kioskos will have eggplant milanesa sandwiches made with homemade bread and tomatoes from the garden around back. They have multitudes of microbreweries with as many flavors of beer as you can imagine. Each refugio around El Bolson also offers their own personal variety of cerveza. There are also many different jams and "dulces" made with the fresh berries from the surrounding forests and farms. My favorites are sauco, rosa mosqueta, and guinda. These spreads make great gifts!!
El Bolson is also the birthplace of Jauja, the infamous patagonian ice cream chain. I have become spoiled in regards to ice cream after living in Buenos Aires for two years, but I think Jauja might have something on all the porteno chains. They use a lot of the fresh local berries to make creative flavors you wouldn't be able to find anywhere else. I've come to know and love Jauja from their branches in Bariloche, but it was definitely worth a visit to the mothership in El Bolson.
El Cajon de Azul

I stayed the night in a refugio called El Cajon de Azul during the full moon. The refugio has an organic garden where they grow all the vegetables they cook with. They also brew their own beer on site and have a very cute and fuzzy army of kitties to guard against mice. El Cajon is almost a mix between an estancia and a refugio, situated in the middle of "gaucho-land." It's a little more geared towards comfort than most of the refugios around Bariloche (you can shower!). The refugios in El Bolson seem to be suited for the casual backpacker versus the more mountaineering-minded escapes around Bariloche. The river and the refugio get the name "azul" because of the stunningly blue water of the Rio Azul.
El Rio Azul

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The wheels on the bus...

In order to have a truly complete South American travel adventure, every explorer needs to do at least one excessively long trip by bus. The thought of a 20 hour bus ride is intimidating, but these journeys are a must....and can even be enjoyable. The flights within South America are expensive, and buses provide a cheap and easy-to-use alternative. Because buses are such popular forms of transportation, they are a relatively comfortable, clean, and safe way to move from point A to point B. The nicer buses have seats that almost fully recline to make a legitimate bed. If you're taking a particularly long trip, it's worth it to splurge for the full "cama" bus. Overnight buses also eliminate the need to book a hostel or other accommodations for the night--you're saving money while snoozing!

The buses offer food en route, but the quality of your in-transit meal varies greatly from company to company. It's always a safe bet to pack snacks 'just in case.' However, the nicer buses offer a pretty decent meal with a complimentary mini bottle of wine (definitely helpful when it comes to sleeping). On other rides, you may get stale or soggy ham and cheese medialunas that look like they've been trapped in plastic wrap for well over a week.

Be careful not to eat or drink too much. The bathrooms on the buses are predictably not the most luxurious. Additionally, as the steward explains when you arrive on the bus, there are absolutely NO 'number 2s' allowed on board. One unfortunate passenger on a bus trip I was on clearly could not restrain himself long enough to follow this rule. He was publicly chastised, turning beet red and mumbling apologies, in front of the whole bus. On long trips, they stop at rest stops to refuel along the way, and you may use the restrooms there. Make it quick...a friend of a friend was left behind at such a rest stop en route to Mendoza. He had to get on the next bus headed there and luckily had friends on the bus that left him to collect his luggage.

The "in-bus" entertainment usually leaves a lot to be desired. There are always a few movies queued to play, but you rarely are watching Oscar quality flicks. I've watched Phat Girls dubbed in Spanish THREE TIMES on bus rides. Occasionally you'll get a good one that will occupy the brain for a few hours. These movies are never censored. On a bus full of families and children, my dinnertime movie was once Lord of War. A great movie, but packed with drugs and violence and probably only appropriate for non-breastfeeding audiences. My favorite part of the entertainment selection is the music video hour. Sometimes hours on end of crazy, over-the-top reggaeton music videos: amazing. With these questionable entertainment sources, don't forget to pack a book and mp3 player in your carry-on.

Overnight bus rides do have their fair share of unpleasant moments, but overall I enjoy travelling by bus here. They are very comfortable and the time always passes much faster than you think it will. You simply have to be prepared for whatever twists and turns the trip will bring you. Below is my list of on-board essentials when preparing for a long bus ride:

  • Warm socks: It gets really cold on the buses...even in the middle of summer. Many of them have air vents located on the floor, so a pair of cosy socks always serves well
  • Blanket or other warm clothing: same reason as above. Also, a bit of a personal preference...I love wrapping up in blankets while sleeping
  • Snacks: I always try to bring some fruit (nothing they serve you will be fresh) and a few other of my favorite goodies (Frutigrans!!)
  • Earplugs: You only have to be stuck next to a snorer or crying baby once to never forget them again
  • Sleeping pills: I always need a little help when trying to sleep in transit. Booze is also an acceptable substitute...especially when returning from trips to wine country. Don't knock yourself out too hard though. I've never encountered problems with theft on buses, but I've had friends that have had things taken.
  • Book: Self-explanatory
  • Magazine: When I get sick of (or finish) my book
  • Luggage ticket: Don't lose this! They give you a little slip of paper when you check your bag below...hold on to it!
  • Charged mp3 player: I actually don't have one so never travel with one, but for most this is a long trip essential.
Suerte and happy trails!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tour de Refugios

I have spent the last month trekking in Bariloche, hiking to many of the refugios. Refugios are small cabins located in the mountains that offer full service kitchens and a warm place to sleep. Argentina and Chile have both embraced this European tradition of mountaintop refuges and the Patagonias are sprinkled with these little home-away-from-homes. Refugios also mean that trekkers don't need to carry a tent or cooking supplies...great news for tired feet and sore backs. Also, if you're willing to shell out some pesos, almost all refugios offer high quality dinners and breakfasts made in house. You can get a piping hot meal of grilled trout and veggies or a hearty steak dinner while soaking in the wilderness.
These high altitude hostels are all definitely worth the walk:

Refugio Frey: Frey is probably the biggest and most well-known refugio. It's located in the ski center Catedral and is the only refugio in the area open year round, with great skiing in the winter and great biking in the summer. High granite "fingers" create a climber's paradise and travelers flock from around the globe for some of the best climbing in South America. Frey, perhaps more than the other refugios, seems to host a kind of community. People come and stay for stretches of days or weeks versus simply passing through.

View from Frey

Refugio Frey

Dusk walking around Frey
Refugio Lopez: Lopez is a great refugio to visit if you're short on time. The entrance to the trail is located close to the picturesque Colonia Suiza, a quaint little village with a market that has an array of local handiwork and food. The market is open on Wednesdays and Sundays and I HIGHLY recommend the waffles with raspberries and cream or dulce de leche and cream. Lopez is a relatively short climb that takes you up to amazing views overlooking the Lake Nahuel Huapi. You don't really need to do an overnight stay at Lopez because it makes such an easy day trip.

Refugio Lopez

View from Lopez

Refugio Italia: This refugio is located at Laguna Negra. The entrance for the trail up to Laguna Negra is also close to Colonia Suiza, but the trek is longer than that to Lopez. However, the majority of the trip is through the forest along a relatively flat plane. Only the very end gets steep and rocky. Refugio Italia is hidden away next to an impressive--you guessed it--black lagoon. Reward yourself with an artisanal beer after your hike brewed in the refugio.
Refugio Italia at Laguna Negra

Refugio Jakob: Jakob is a picturesque wooden cabin transplanted directly from some kind of fairytale. Jakob is the kind of place that just makes you want to frolic. It is a warm, tranquil escape compared to the hustle and bustle of some of the other refugios. The family that runs the refugio have been there for over 25 years, and the smiling, bouncing, half-mountain-goat children of the refugiero add to the fairy-tale feel of the place. All the refugios in the area are connected by paths winding through the forests and mountains of Bariloche. I did a hike from Frey to Jakob, from which you may also continue on to Laguna Negra.
Refugio Jakob
Inside Jakob
Path down towards Jakob
Refugio Otto Meiling: Meiling is located en route to Mount Tronador. The entrance is at Pampa Linda, a little paradise worth a trip all on its own. Mount Tronador has many glaciers and the roaring calving of the ice gives the mountain its name: "Thunderer." The refugio is clean and efficient, with a disco ball and surprisingly advanced sound system hinting at potential high altitude revelry.
Refugio Otto Meiling (note the condors flying above)

Me on the glacier near Meiling

Meiling by morning

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why won't it work?

This is my neighbor. Found him very unsuccessfuly trying to use the swingset on my way to the grocery store last night. If only I could get just a liiiiittle farther back...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

So are you fluent?

While travelling, I found myself continually stumped and stuttering with this question. I came to Argentina speaking no Spanish. My Spanish has now advanced well beyond "Una cerveza, por favor," but language is something that is never going to be perfect. Learning another language is fun and rewarding but also continually frustrating. And verbs...forget about it.

For me, learning Spanish was a bit of a roller coaster. At the beginning--especially as I started at level 0--everything was up and up and up. I remember thinking it was almost magic when I would say something to a waiter and he would understand me. I memorzied perfectly my speech of "I'm Meg. I'm from the states. I'm going to teach English. I like red meat. I also like wine." And then someone would ask me a question. And it was pretty much game over. I slowly learned different tenses and added new vocabulary, but it was always up and down. Good days and bad days. A visit back to the states of a month would set me back three months of Spanish. Now, I've reached a plateau but am still steadily gaining.

Language is a fluid creature. It's constantly moving and changing. Words come in and out of use and meanings shift from country to country. A country's language is a reflection of its culture. For the more "passionate" latino culture, Spanish has a colorful array of phrases I wouldn't dream to utter in English for curse words. Similarly, there are over-the-top and flowery terms to express love and affection. It's not just "sweety"'s "mi vida." Argentina also has a dialect of slang called Lunfardo. The country's machista tendencies peek out of its slang with its constant references to farts and balls.

With such greatly varying idioms and expressions in each place, mistakes are inevitable. For example, picking up a language tip from a friend who studied in Spain, I used the word "coger" for "get." I walked around Buenos Aires for two months sweetly asking shop owners where I could f*ck bus number 152. One of my favorite language-slip stories is of a friend of mine named Cat. She's a young, bubbly, California blonde who introduced herself for the first two weeks as "Cat...como Gatita"...or " in slut." Mistakes are easy to make...but everyone makes them. You just have to try not to blush too much.

I think what throws me off is the world "fluent," because I associate fluency with perfection. However, perfection isn't the ultimate goal in learning another language. Communication is. Even if you don't know the word for "corkscrew," you can convey what you mean by saying "the thing that opens the bottle of wine." And never underestimate the power of charades. So am I fluent? I can understand most things. I can say less than I understand. But I can get my point across...even if it's inelegant. Is there a category for that? I do know that I'll never again snicker at a funny accent or incorrect turn of phrase. Being the butt of a joke that you don't quite get isn't any fun. I have gained a respect for and fascination with languages in general and am looking forward to tackling the next.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A Charmed Trip

With the knowlege that my adventure in Argentina could be slowly winding down (or for my parents, more like the hope/promise that it would be ending), my family came to visit me over New Years. We spent two weeks together travelling around the south of Argentina and eventually landed at an estancia on Lago Guitierrez. It was one of those enchanted moments in time where everything seems to click just right. It had been a year since I had seen my family (except Patch) and it was the perfect reunion. I´m thankful to have such a loving and close family, and this trip served as a great reminder of how lucky I am.

Flying Solo

After two years living the big city life in Buenos Aires, I was ready for a change. At the end of December, I packed up all my belongings--which had somehow grown into a monstrous pile--and hopped on a bus headed south. I´ve always been enchanted with the idea of moving to the ¨small town¨ life in Argentina.

Bariloche seems to be a perfect mix. It´s small enough to have the warm, friendly, open small town feel. One of the most common forms of transportation is to ¨hacer un dedo,¨or hitchhike. At the same time, it´s big enough to have lots of things to do and lots of tourism (which spells ¨job opportunity¨for me).

My biggest motivation for my relocation was because I miss the outdoors. I love living in a city with hundreds of activities and options sprawling in every direction; however, at times I just have the urge to strap a bunch of weight on my back and bound up mountains. After travelling through Peru with my brother, backpacking and camping for a large portion of the trip, I realized I was ready for a change.

I have a tendency to move rather than travel. Two years ago, I transplanted to Buenos Aires and now I´m relocating again...without a clue of what the city will be like. The biggest difference between these two moves is that this is the first time that I´m travelling truly alone. When I came to Buenos Aires, I knew my friend Devan would join me in a few months. I also did a language program which served as set forum to meet people. This time, I´m without a net.

So far, I have loved travelling by myself. I´m still in the glowing honeymoon stage of moving, but now I can´t imagine ever being intimidated by setting off alone. I´m really looking forward to moving through the next stages of ¨getting to know you¨with Bariloche and am excited to see what they bring.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Christmas in July

I celebrated Christmas for the first time away from the family this year. Although I was slightly nervous that I would be severely homesick, one huge advantage to living in the Southern Hemisphere is that seasons are flipped so my Christmas landed smack dab in the middle of summer. I had a true Christmas in July.

Christmas is definitely done differently in Buenos Aires than in the states. Here, sparse decorations only serve as a small reminder that, "oh is december." In the states, we love our holidays. We really, really love our holidays. Christmas, Halloween, and Independence day come and pass in Buenos Aires with little fanfare or attention. Conversely, in the states we literally bring out the band. Huge holiday celebrations are one thing that I do miss from the states...who doesn't want an excuse to dress up and get a little crazy a few days a year??

The first time i noted the distinct diffrence between "Christmases" was last year when I flew back to the states from Buenos Aires to celebrate "Las Fiestas." I flew into Columbus (because flights straight to my hometown are impossible) and my friend Sydney picked up at the airport. I went to the mall that night because my friend had a job caroling ( costume and everything...anyone have pictures??) Walking through the mall in the heart of middle America, Christmas smacked me in the face like a frying pan. Songs, decorations, Santas, carolers, and shoppers all milling around with rosy cheeks and that little glint of holiday cheer and panic shining from their eyes: an explosion of holiday spirit.

This year in Buenos Aires, I dutifully decorated my apartment with a little 'fiesta tree' and incessantly singing snowman (thanks to a lovely care package from the mom). The decorations in Buenos are also a bit *ahem* I embraced the tacky and decorated the tree with disco flashing lights and leis.

I spent Christmas and Christmas Eve on the beach with my friend Amber. We couldn't have had a more perfect weekend...minus my severely sunburned back (which was followed almost immediately by an uncomfortable 20 hour bus ride sitting on that burnt back to Bariloche....youch). Three days of eating, drinking, being merry, and lazing around on the beach seemed to be just what the doctor ordered to celebrate Navidad.