Friday, August 9, 2013

Rachelle - Final Week in Córdoba

One of the last asados
I've  been meaning to write this all week, but I feel like I haven't gotten a chance to sit down and think until now. The final presentation for my internship went quite well. Nicole and I both prepared tons of talking points to present, and a decent amount of people showed up to the event. Unfortunately, there was one guy who felt like debating everything (which added about twenty minutes to the presentation). But our boss pretty much handled his questions, explaining the reasoning behind out analysis. My favorite argument that this guy put forth was that perhaps a certain scene wasn't portraying a gender stereotype because he had watched a documentary that proved some people (and some sexes) are genetically predisposed to perform well in specific situations, like aiding with child-birth. However, I lacked the scientific vocabulary to debate with him about that, so I settled for my boss's explanation that we were not biologists, and that we were not looking into that question. All else aside, I'm happy to have had the opportunity to do the presentation. It was probably the most nervous I've been to speak in public, but now at least I know I can present something in Spanish in front of native speakers and appear professional (I think).
my instructor Juan and me

workplace mate
On Friday Nicole and I met up with my boss at a cafe to chat and say our goodbyes, and it was nice to know that I'll have a contact in Argentina now if I ever do come back.  Saying goodbye to everyone else, though, was very sad. I'd grown so attached to living in my hostel, but it helped that most of the other residents were about to leave or had already left to go back home. I also spent nearly an entire day at COINED taking my Spanish exam (now C1 certified!), eating choripan, and saying goodbye to everyone.

after-dinner hostel performance
Since I've been back, it's been great seeing everyone that I've missed, but I've left a lot behind in Argentina, as well. I'll miss walking to work along the cañada every day, seeing stray dogs wearing sweaters that someone has made the effort to put on them, hearing music on the radio from the 90's, dancing to cumbia, walking past almost daily demonstrations by various labor unions in Plaza Intendencia, saying "che boludo" and "que honda" to everyone, hearing people sing "Veni Raquel" whenever I say that my name is Rachelle, living in a hostel with people who know how to play the guitar, eating criollos for breakfast, the mate ritual, speaking Spanish every day, and everyone I've met in Córdoba. I could go on, but I won't. I'm just extremely grateful that I had this opportunity, and I hope I can go back as soon as possible.

choripan night

best adaptation of an English word

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rachelle - Córdoba Week 11

Mountain range in Uspallata
After a busy weekend, I'm almost done with my internship in Córdoba. Things have been going so quickly, especially with trips to Iguazú and Mendoza, and while I'm excited to go back home and see everyone that I've been missing, I'm also trying to make sure I enjoy my last week here as much as possible. We have our presentation this Thursday, so I've been preparing a lot for that--cutting video, working on the PowerPoint, looking up sources. I think that after practicing lots tomorrow and adding some more analysis of specific scenes, Nicole and I will be ready. I'm not entirely sure how many people will come (part of me is hoping for a small crowd...), but the event has been created, people have been invited, and we even have a poster. So there's that. This will be the first time I've ever done a Spanish presentation in front of a group of entirely native Spanish-speakers, so, needless to say, I'll be practicing a ton.

One of the wineries
But, to get to this weekend, I went to Mendoza--famous for its wine and mountains. Besides wishing I could spend more time there, I think this might have been my favorite trip yet. Nicole and I took a bus Thursday night and got to our hostel Saturday morning, just in time for breakfast--during which, the sweetest lady makes pancakes with either dulce de leche, honey, or lemon
Malbec, Mendoza's specialty
filling upon request ("Por supuesto, mi divina!"). Since we got there too late to go on a guided tour, we took a bus to Maipu, a nearby town with lots of wineries, to rent bikes and do a self-guided tour. Besides being much cheaper, it was also much more physically demanding than I had expected. Maipu Bikes, the rental place we chose, was great and provided us with a map and lunch coupons, but everything looked much closer than it was. In the end, we only went to four places (a restaurant for lunch, two wineries, and an artisan shop specializing in olives and olive oil), but we were much too tired and full of food and wine samples to care. Also, my legs probably would have fallen of if we'd tried to do anything more.

On Saturday, Kris arrived at the hostel (he had to work on Friday, so he took a different bus), and we walked around town to do some shopping and lunch, then went on a sunset cabalgata (horseback ride) that we'd booked through the hostel.  Riding through the mountains was beautiful and so peaceful, even with my already-sore legs from all of the biking from the previous day.  My horse's name was Tinto, and besides trying to eat all of the plants, he didn't give me any trouble throughout the ride. We rode from one ranch to another that was higher up in the mountains, where an asado was waiting for us. After eating way too much steak, we all sat around the fire while our guide played a few traditional folk songs of Mendoza, followed by many more popular songs in Spanish and English, as well as some medleys of popular songs. It sounds pretty cheesy, but it was actually pretty nice, especially when I knew enough of the words to sing along.

Outside of Uspallata

view from the bus
Finally, on Sunday, we really wanted to go to the mountains but knew we couldn't fit in a tour with a group because the expeditions are generally twelve hours long, and we had a bus to catch at 8PM. So we ended up going to Uspallata, a small town in the mountains about two hours from Mendoza, and walking around on one of their shorter trails. We only had three hours, but it was worth it to eat lunch up in the hills, enjoy the view, and do some intense climbing to the top of a small peak with a cross on it.  The path we chose was called Mírador Vía Crucis and with each cross that marked the path, there were quotes from the bible. If you followed the path, it led you up a gentle incline to where the highest cross was. However, as we followed a riverbed and not the path, we did not know this. So we climbed up the extremely steep path in the front of the peak, which (apparently) was quite doable, just a little tiring. I was also extremely dusty by the time we descended and caught the bus back to Mendoza, then caught our other bus back to Córdoba. While I really enjoy traveling around and seeing other parts of Argentina, I'm glad I won't be sleeping in a bus again for a long time.

Flan with a huge mound of dulce de leche
Night sky after the cabalgata

so many alpaca sweaters

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Rachelle - Córdoba Week 10

48 hours (24 each way to and from Iguazú) in a bus was surprisingly not as bad as I thought it would be. Although it was extremely tiring and involved lots of bread. But! Before all of that, I had a short week at my internship. We worked on cutting video clips to use in the final presentation, organizing an event date to present it (which will be next Thursday), and have started looking more at the background of the directors for analysis, as well. I have a feeling this next week is going to go a little bit too fast as we try to get everything organized, but I think it will turn out well!

Okay, so now for Iguazú. The weather forecast called for rain pretty much the whole weekend, and it was right (at least for Saturday, the only complete day we could go to the falls), but we figured it was better to see the falls in a torrential downpour than not see them at all. We got to Puerto Iguazú late afternoon on Friday, so we wanted to see something that wasn't too far away. Thanks to my Lonely Planet book, we found La Casa Ecologica de Botellas (a house made out of plastic bottles). The family that made it actually lives in a house (larger than the ones in the picture) made of bottles, and the proprietor gives a tour, explaining their building techniques and showing off some souvenirs made from recycled materials that are available in their gift shop.

The most cooperative/social hummingbird ever
 Afterwards, we went to get something to eat (there wasn't lunch on the bus because it was supposed to arrive at Iguazú two hours earlier than it did), then went back to the hostel and met two girls from Australia, who invited us to dinner with two other guys they'd met from the U.S. Since the restaurant we'd already eaten at was a bit stingy on portion sizes, we agreed to the second dinner, which turned into a four-hour affair of eating, talking, and watching Ryan--one of the guys from the U.S.--get his face sculpted out of clay by a passing street artist. John, the other guy, paid for it to be done because he thought the opportunity to have a clay sculpture of his friend was too good to pass up. As much as I'm enjoying learning Spanish, it was nice not to have a language barrier between us. The girls were leaving the next day, but Kris and I had dinner with Ryan and John the next night, too.

After what seemed like much too little sleep, Kris and I got up bright (well, grey) and early the next morning to go to the national park. The hostel we were in was really great and we were able to schedule a boat trip at the falls through them, see the bus schedule, and even sign up for packed lunches that were about five times cheaper than the lunches offered in the park. Once we got there, my first goal was to find a poncho. Then we rode the train to the upper and lower trail heads of the park. The trail to get to them is less than a kilometer, but because of the rain, we thought riding the train would be better. We spent the morning on the upper trail, had lunch, then hurried off to get to our 1:10 boat trip that would take us to the base of some of the smaller falls.
Coatis: shameless beggars
However, as much as we tried to dodge around the gigantic tour groups, we missed our time slot and had to move it back an hour. Since we were already at the end of the lower trails (we really miscalculated how far away the boat docks were...), the only platform to look at was the one that goes the closest to a section of the falls. This pretty much destroyed any hope we had had of keeping ourselves dry. Even with our ponchos, the wind and spray from the waterfall soaked my hair, face, and any exposed clothing (which varied, depending on the amount of wind). But, looking back, this was good preparation for the boat trip, since it's impossible to stay dry when you're in a boat that goes less than ten feet away from the falls and smashes through waves. Once I had my camera securely in a waterproof bag and didn't have to worry about it, though, I had a blast.

In case you wondered how close the trails get to the water
After we got off of the boat, the lower trails were significantly less crowded, so we went back up them the way we had come to see the views. The pictures can't do Iguazú justice, so I stopped taking them after I'd gotten some of the main views and just observed as much as I could. The expanse of the falls alone is impressive, not to mention how close you can get to them on the park trails and how loud their roar is. It would have been nice to have a sunny day to wander around without a camera and just look at the falls some more, but we didn't have time (or weather cooperation).  Our clothing was also completely soaked (including my jacket, hoody, and shoes), so it would have been extremely uncomfortable and cold to attempt to see the park the following day. I'll just have to come back sometime during the summer.

View on the lower platform

incubator room (unhatched eggs were off to the left)
 For our final day, we decided to go to the Güira Oga animal sanctuary. Here, workers and nature specialists rehabilitate injured animals and also provide a safe home to animals that can no longer survive in the wild (whether they had permanent injuries or were pets that learned how to fly or acclimate themselves to the wild). After such a tiring (and cold) day at Iguazú, it was nice to have a calm visit to see lots of types of toucans, eagles, monkeys, ant-eaters, and other animals that originate from the rain forests of the region. Something I thought was interesting, as well, is that they breed some of the more endangered species that are unable to return to the wild, and release the young to be raised by their own species in the wild in an attempt to repopulate the species. To do this, they replace the eggs that the birds lay with a false egg and take the real ones to an incubator.

that's why you don't feed the coatis


 After the sanctuary, we only had a couple of hours before catching our bus back to Córdoba. All in all, I really enjoyed going to Iguazú despite the rain and long bus rides. I'll just need a few days to catch up on my sleep.

In other news:
  • Tonight we're having a big asado in my hostel
  • Thursday night, I'm off to Mendoza for my last weekend trip!
  • One of the most ridiculous intersections I have ever seen

Monday, July 15, 2013

Rachelle - Córdoba Week 9

One of the lions in front of Eden Hotel
Last week wasn't extremely progress-filled as far as my internship goes. Tuesday was independence day, so we had the day off. Then my cold made a reappearance on Wednesday, so I stayed home to recuperate. The winter here has been extremely mild (usually 60-70 during the day), but unfortunately that hasn't stopped the flu/cold season. Surprisingly, though, Nicole and I are still pretty much on schedule for our analysis project. We even found some more articles that we can use for research. This week, we'll be focusing on establishing a date/time for the project presentation and how we want to promote it.

Since I had Wednesday off, Nicole, Kris, and I went to the main bus station to buy tickets for Mendoza and Iguazú. We ended up finding a good deal at a ticket office for Mendoza (complete with free candy), but then went with the travel agency that COINED uses for trips to buy Iguazú tickets because I thought it would be cheaper. Really, the price ended up being about the same, but we got tickets for cama (bed) instead of semi-cami, which will be nice since it's 40 hours round-trip. We leave Thursday afternoon for Iguazú since I've got a long weekend, and I can't wait!

This weekend, unfortunately the horseback ride didn't work out as planned. One of the girls from Michigan State was planning it through her roommate who has a stable, but the roommate had some travel delays coming back from Brazil and couldn't make it back in time for Sunday. But! Nicole and I went to La Falda on Sunday, which turned out to be a pretty cool trip. We started off by seeing Eden Hotel, built in 1897, it hosted many Argentine and European aristocrats, as well as Germans and Japanese after the end of World War II. Apparently there are some murky ties to the hotel and the Nazi party, as Walter and Ida Eichhorn, who owned the hotel for a time, were speculated (by the FBI) to have economically supported Hitler in his rise to power. The pair often stayed with the dictator in the same hotel in Germany, having access to his private rooms, and offered their own hotel as a place of refuge for him whenever he pleased. There are also several letters of correspondence between the two parties, and this relationship was the reported reason why over 1,000 Germans reportedly came to La Falda after WWII.

After the rise of Peronism, the hotel's business quickly declined and closed in the mid 60's. It was briefly reopened as a casino, but the repairs on the building were never finished, and it lay to waste once again. Only recently in the late 90's was the hotel acquired by the city after it had been declared a national monument. But even then, repairs have been slow because of the nearly 30 years of disuse, water damage, and overgrowth. However, because most of the building was constructed of concrete, it maintained the majority of its structural integrity. At the front, the hotel looks completely restored, but once you go through some of the rooms (that they show you on the tour), you can see what the years of abandonment did to the building. Apparently there are also some interesting ghost stories about the hotel, too (ghost hunters international made a visit), so that's always interesting. It's probably what fuels the highlighted night tours of the hotel, too. Mostly, the stories stem from the time when the hotel was used for wealthy tuberculosis patients, since the climate was dry and the hotel had some open, airy rooms.

 Afterwards, we attempted to find some paths through the hills nearby, but the map wasn't very helpful and it was getting near sunset, so we decided to find the tango competition we'd heard about. We'd arrived in La Falda in the middle of their annual tango festival, which has daily events and looks like it gets some more famous tango stars next week. We successfully located the ampitheater where the competition was happening, but only had time to see four dance couples before we had to head back to the bus station. However, the last two pairs were excellent and I'm really glad we went.

In other news:
  • There's another guy studying to be a chef in my hostel (I don't know why that keeps happening, but I'm not complaining), and he made some amazing chicken Saturday night.