The Coolest Thing I’ve Done Recently

“What’s the coolest thing you’ve done recently?” This question plagues my conversations with nearly all of my loved (and liked) ones and every time I am asked this, I rack my brain for anything to satisfy their desire to live vicariously through me. But all that seems to come up is a lot of empanadas, some good drinks with good friends, and the question, “Haven’t you seen my Facebook?! I put a lot of work into fulfilling my role obligated by society as a study abroad student so that everyone knows how cool I am.”

This may not be exactly what I’m supposed to say on a blog about my cultural whirlwhind that is my experience abroad, but the thing is, I haven’t been doing a lot of individually cool things. But like, I feel like my life is still like, really, really cool. Also, you must be new here if you think this is a blog full of things I’m supposed to say on a study abroad blog. Cue maniacal chuckle/tears.

Sure, I can rattle off a bunch of restaurants and coffee shops and dogs we have seen, but when it comes down to it, none of those things are individually all that interesting. This is where I think we are wrong about what we tell those who are about to go abroad. My friend Alli (sup gurl) made the great observation that people romanticize being abroad so much. It’s portrayed as four months of sightseeing and partying. And I suppose for some people, it could very well be just that. But I’ve lived my whole life priding myself on not being “some people”.  

What I’m getting at is that I think there’s something deeper to experience while living abroad: living. Living in a new culture and experiencing on a realistic level how the people of this area of the world actually live, and consequently, view the world. At least, that is my preference. I understand that it’s also natural to do unforgivably touristy things like take pictures of every picturesque street or grab drinks BEFORE dinner, but I came on this trip to experience what it’s like to live here, and LIVE HERE I WILL, dammit.

Inevitably, there is an element of self-discovery in this, which basically means you have to skip class a couple times to cry in your room and eat Alfajors (United States peeps- you’ll get one, cherish it). While these cry sessions are not usually welcome, there’s really no way to prevent them. At some point in the day you can just feel it creep up on you and, just like in the Dane Cook sketch, you know that as soon as you get home and are left alone, it’s going to happen. I normally stop by the store on my way home to grab some Oreos, because my addition to the quote “a wise man is never cold twice” is “a wise woman never cries without Oreos twice”.

The goal is to come away from these with one more small slice of understanding who you are and what makes you tick. And mine are normally followed by a cold shower and a promise that I won’t eat any more of your Alfajors followed by a step on the scale, which makes me feel much less fat because there are roughly 2.2 pounds to every kilogram, so I get to pretend I’m under 100 lbs here. It’s kinda fun.

During these cry sessions, you normally send some irrationally angsty texts about how stupid this place is and how you can’t wait to come back. And then your friends say all the wrong things like “You need to enjoy this experience while you can!” and you resent them for a minute for not understanding your super cool but still super hard life. I know, nobody understands you, right?

But then comes the realization that if the roles were reversed, you would probably say the same things. Living abroad is an incredibly unique experience and really, the only people who can relate are the people who have done it before.

Here is where you fit in. You are one of the lucky few who has the privilege to lose yourself enough to find yourself. Nobody ever develops a great relationship with himself by being 100% happy and 100% comfortable 100% of the time. These have not been the best months of my life. These have not been the hardest months of my life. However, they have arguably been the most important when taking into consideration the sheer amount of understanding I have gained. Understanding of myself and of the world around me, which I was only able to gain by first trying to understand others.

There’s a quote that is way too overused in DIY projects of painting globes on Pinterest that says, “If you travel far enough, you’ll eventually meet yourself.”  While I’m normally not a proponent of anything that anyone wants to paint on this beautiful world we live in, I really like this quote. That is, to lose enough familiarity that you are forced to become familiar with the only thing you have left: yourself. So I suppose THAT’S the coolest thing I’ve done recently.

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A bad day to have a bad day

Came home yesterday to my host mom telling us that we’re not going to have gas in our building for the next six months, or for me, the rest of my stay. Apparently the building owner is boycotting the gas company or something outrageous like that. Anyone who knows anything about my life knows that this isn’t my first rodeo, so I’ll survive, but needless to say, I might smell a little worse a little more frequently than I did before.

I’ve also been a little down lately because all of my friends are planning awesome trips around the country and continent and I can’t do any of them for a lack of funds. It’s really disappointing hearing about all of their experiences and plans when I’m stuck in Buenos Aires, and it’s really easy to resent them for having more money than me. But recently I had the revelation that I’m not STUCK in Buenos Aires- I’m damn blessed to be here. If you would have told my poverty-stricken self three years ago that I would be in this country right now, I wouldn’t have believed you. I am so lucky to have the opportunity of living in a foreign country and bettering myself in a way that no other experience can. I am learning so many valuable life lessons and have already become a much more understanding, patient, knowledgeable person for having lived here. Just gotta remind myself of that sometimes.

It’s also midterms this week, so these days have been a bit stressful. Waking up this morning was one of those days where even the color of the walls bothers you. STUPID EGGSHELL WHITE GO BACK TO YOUR FARM. Anyway, I was trying really hard to have a bad day. Turns out life had other plans for me.

Things I saw on my walk to school that made me grateful for my flawed life:

1) A lack of degrading and quick-lipped construction workers

2) Three people sleeping in the park- I’m lucky to have a bed and four walls and lots of fuzzy socks!

3) A freshly stepped-in pile of dog poop

4) An old woman in a wheelchair helping a young blind man cross the street

5) A dog wearing a Gap sweatshirt

What’s that saying about if we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back? I would rather be in my showerless situation than be a rude construction worker, sleep in the park, step in dog poop, be immobile, be blind, or be a dog wearing a Gap sweatshirt. I’m not a very spiritual person, but today it really felt as though the world was trying to prove something to me. So, here’s to going with the flow and enjoying whatever life throws at me.

dog sweater

Nothing Important, Just Satire

Before I came abroad, I asked my good friend (and soon to be sister-in-law!) Emma how she made friends when she studied abroad in Spain. She and I are very similar in our choices of people (none) and activities (Netflix/eating, preferably at the same time) and I had concerns about not being able to find a group of friends who didn’t want to spend their entire abroad experience inebriated. Hoping she could eliminate those, I went to her for advice. She told me that during the last month of her program, she finally found another girl on her program who didn’t like people either and they, at last, had someone else to eat with.

After this discussion, I made it my goal to find my friend(s) to eat and complain with as soon as possible. It’s been eight weeks, folks. Who’s counting? After a few failed attempts at the boliche (club) scene, I have officially decided that that is not my calling in life. Tired of being called a loser for not wanting or being able to spend all my money on alcohol and cab rides, I have finally found a solid array of friends who have decided the same thing. Thank the Argentine Lord. His name is Dios here, for all you cultureless gringos.

All of this is to say that I’m doing a lot better here now! Anyone who has talked to me outside of social media (I’m obligated to make everything look desirable…) knows that it hasn’t been the easiest or greatest eight weeks of my life. I’m happy to say those days (weeks…) are over! Reilly, Alli, Colleen, Abby, Lexi, Kata- this is for you guys! Week 8 definitely isn’t the ideal time to start enjoying yourself, but it’s better than nothing, amirite? Iamrite.

Anyway, those are the only actual updates I have for you. If you’re not interested in hearing some awkward stories about my last couple weeks, you can leave now. Thanks for getting this far.

My host mom’s computer was broken for a couple weeks. All this led to us talking about computer fixing. Go figure. My roommate and I were lending her our computers (both Macs) and she was amazed at how thin my computer was. She actually made me bring my computer out to her dinner party to show her guests how thin and perfect and beautiful and cute it is. Cue oohs and ahs.

Anyway, our mom was freaking out about her computer and talking about how she’s only had it for three years and already has to fix it! And I’m over here like, “Gurl, they come out with a new iPhone every 13 months. You need to update your life accordingly. All the Americans are doing it.” This led to a discussion about how, if my or Sophie’s computer were to break, it would cost 3/4 the price of a new computer just to fix it and it’s easier and oftentimes better to buy a new computer. Our mom was astonished at the idea of this. “But then you fill up the landfill with your old computer!” No, Mom, you’re missing the point. YOU GET A SHINY NEW COMPUTER OUT OF IT. God, Argentinians. So thoughtless.

Watched the Packers-49ers game with our host mom. We had to explain to her all the rules, which was actually pretty fun. Also, they call the Packers “packadores” and the 49ers “los cuarenta y nueves,” which is very funny to hear. But, that’s a number! What is a “packador”?! Argentinians give weird names to things.

The Packers ended up losing (great, now I’m crying), and she said to us “You better not be making me like a crappy team! People are going to ask who my football team is and I’ll tell them the Packers and they’re going to laugh at me!” At least she’s got her priorities straight. Everyone knows winners never quit (being the team you root for, is how that goes). Just ask 49ers “fans”.

Sorry, had to make a football joke. I’m dying out here, people.

Got my nose pierced. This was really strange because I swear to Dios, I was in and out of that studio in five minutes. I walked in, said I needed a nose piercing, he wiped my nose with a baby wipe, and stuck a needle in there. I didn’t have to sign a waiver or anything. I suppose that’s because Argentinians think that if they choose to stick a piece of metal in their nose, they also choose to accept responsibility for anything that happens because of that a choice rather than suing the crap out of the poor guy who did everything he was supposed to. I know, I don’t get it either. Anyway, I love the piercing. The only thing is that it makes picking my nose much more inconvenient and painful, but hey, we all have our vices.

I gave a presentation in my Spanish class about Affirmative Action in the United States. My Argentine professor knew all about Affirmative Action. Several of the American students did not. Sure, they were all white kids, but still. REALLY? You don’t know what Affirmative Action is? You’re a white male, you’re supposed to be pissed about this and all those minorities carpe-ing your diem! It was quite a sight. Luckily for them, I taught them and now they’re all pissed. Stupid government and its stupid help to stupid repressed people.

What else is there? I waste all my good stories on my Facebook statuses and my journal. At the risk of boring you, I’ll leave it there. Thanks for reading, y’all are the best. I kind of like this, I’m thinking I might keep a blog even after I return, because I can complain about the ridiculous things that happen to me in the United States, too.

So long, farewell!

Buenos Aires, Schmuenos Schmaires

Went to Mendoza this weekend. What an experience! It’s the wine country of Latin America and for very good reason. The equator hates us right now so it’s winter here, which means that the vineyards were not in their full beauty, but somehow I managed to drink that problem away.

The city of Mendoza is very similar to Buenos Aires except way better in virtually every aspect. All of the benefits of being in an Argentine city and none of the annoyances that come along. And by annoyances, I mean dog poop and people who have nothing better to do than ram into you so you get the picture that this is THEIR city and THEIR sidewalk and you can hop your blonde self on a plane back to where you came from if you have a problem with that, gringa.

Saturday, August 17, 2013 hereby goes down as one of the best days of my life. Woke up early, slurped a breakfast of coffee and several spoonfuls of dulce de leche (cleverly nicknamed DDL by my friend Reilly), and then headed out for the day. We met Juan, who just started learning English two months ago and probably already speaks it much more better than my mother, and then we took off on a 40-minute bus ride to the foothills of the Andes to meet our new horse friends. Some people immediately named their horses and developed life-long bonds with them and invited them to have a sleepover next weekend where they could braid hair and talk about boys. I didn’t name mine cause he was kind of a douchebag and I didn’t want to get emotionally attached to him like I have to other douchebags in the past. Look at me, learning from my mistakes.

Anyway, we hopped on and trotted off into the horizon. I’ve only ever ridden horseback with Mormons so this was a much different experience filled with many more curse words as Unnamed Douchebag walked along narrow paths with steep drop-offs and continuously tried to eat the horse behind me’s face for lunch. We finally reached a really beautiful spot in the mountains with a nearby creek where we hung out for a little bit. Then, we headed back to the ranch where our recently deceased friend Dead Cow (may he Rest in Peace) was waiting for us to eat him and our old friends Fermented Grapes were waiting for us to drink them.Image

We hung around for several hours after that, marveling at the real-life Gauchos (with knives and all!) and enjoying the guitar playing and broken English songs of Juan. P.S. Juan is the absolute cutest and I’m still in love even though my mom told me I’m not allowed to fall in love with anyone skinnier and/or browner  than me. She thinks racism is funny. Thanks, Obama.

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On Sunday we were supposed to go to the hot springs but it turns out you have to sign up for these things the day before and not just flirt with Juan all day, so we were out of luck. Instead, we strolled through Mendoza and found an awesome park called Parque San Martin. It was also Día del Niño so there were way too many children around but I made it out alive and cootie-free. After the park we sat around our hostel with our new friends and enjoyed wine happy hour (“All You Can Drink” for free… Not mad about it). Then we went to an amazing restaurant and drank more wine and reveled in how perfect our weekend was. Never been happier.

Seriously though, I’m leaving Mendoza feeling optimistic and energized. Which is ironic because I probably got less sleep this weekend than I have any other weekend in this country and I almost got woman-napped (I’m not a kid anymore!!!). I’m sure you’re all dying to know the story but I’ve elected not to tell my horror stories until I’m safely back in the US. That way, my mom and Ashley’s mom are less worried and I have more motivation to make it home alive and rape-free so I can watch their faces when I tell them about the scary stuff that happened to me. Great plan if you ask me.

I digress. Mendoza is like if Buenos Aires and Denver had a baby. Awesome Latin American city with the gorgeous Andes as the backdrop and breatheable air. Sorry for all the whining but I just really like Mendoza and the only way to express how great it is is to compare it to BA. That being said, now that I’ve had an incredible weekend I am ready to take on Buenos Aires again. I mean, the only reason I had such a great time in Mendoza is because we actively sought out great things to do rather than sitting around whining and blogging.

I suppose that’s my cue. See ya.

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You Learn Something New Every Day!

Things I learned today:

1. It doesn’t matter how many years of a language you take or how long you study or how many times your profe writes “fantastico!” on your paper, the locals of whatever country you’re in will always be there to verbally kick you in the nuts as soon as you think you’re able to speak at the level of a 3rd grader.

It’s strange, because I’ve learned to say “Claro” after pretty much every sentence someone says to me, which directly translates to mean “Clearly.” Literally the opposite of clear. If you took a puddle of mud and poured in some marbles and then stirred in some macaroni and a couple bricks, that’s about how “claro” your last sentence was. Actually, I recognized about two-fifths of what you said, ma’am, but I’m going to say “Claro,” walk over to where you’re pointing and hope there’s someone over there who is more patient with a Spanish 3rd grader trapped in the body of a 20-year-old gringa looking for fruit. Thanks so much for your time.

Maybe I’ll start saying “sucio” instead, which means “dirty”. Then people will think I’m coming on to them and trying to make every word they say sound kinky. “The melons are over there.” “Oh, dirty.” Yep, that’s gonna happen.

2. Argentinians value alcohol over food, and pretty much anything else except maybe cleaning supplies. (Señor Clean gets the job done.) We went to the mercado today and I swear to you, their alcohol section was as large, if not larger than their food selection. You’re hungry, Gringa? Here’s some crackers, jam, and coffee. Godspeed. Oh, what’s that? You’re happy/sad/thirsty/apathetic/literally any other feeling besides hungry? Here’s about 8 million different types of wine, three aisles of liquor, and some sugary fruit drink to hold you over. Oy vey. I suppose I shouldn’t complain, but hungry is starting to become a part of my permanent state.

3. Until today, I was under the impression that deodorant was one of the few things on which the world was able to agree. This presumption came crashing down when I decided to bring a deodorant that was almost empty and opt to buy a new one in AR. Turns out, Argentina is too good for our normal glide-on deodorant. Silly Americans. The only deodorant they have here is aerosol-powered. I apologize, but having a frigid blast of floral-scented air shot up my arm is not my idea of a pleasant way to deodorize myself. Snooty Argentinians and their gusty armpits.

4. MILK COMES IN PLASTIC BAGS HERE. LIKE, IT’S A BAG OF MILK. I don’t get it.

5. Everyone in Argentina is an architect, apparently. Went to look for a notebook to use for my classes that start Monday. Out of the six they had to offer, five were on grid paper. WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE DOING WITH ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY PAGES OF GRID PAPER? Not to mention the only notebook I could find with regular lined paper was 55 pesos. (That’s about $10 US for those of you who are less cultured than I am. I know, I’m super fancy.)

I suppose that’s all I’ve really learned today, but this seemed like a good format at the beginning of this post and I’m not about to change it. I got a siesta to take. Sorry dudes.

Also, I’m thoroughly aware this post is disappointing in comparison to my last entry. You win some, you lose some. Miranda- 1. Readers- 1. Tie game, kids.

Adios.

Sorry, dignity.

 

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Sup guys? Yep, I’ve finally mustered up the willpower to compose myself enough to inform everyone of my oh-so-wonderful life in Buenos Aires.

Let me start by saying that I had empanadas three times in my first 48 hours in this country. I’m not mad about it.

I’m not gonna lie, guys. I have no idea what this picture is in front of or what cultural or historical implications it has, but it’s a picture of the group of students who are here with me. That’s all I got.

Moving on, the empanadas have been the highlight of my experience thus far. I know this is where I’m supposed to say that I am loving every second of it and I’m supposed to allude to my late-night experiences which are supposed to contain absurd amounts of alcohol and losing my iPhone and getting lost in the streets of this strange new place, and it pains me to be such a disappointment in this category. Maybe check back in a couple of weeks, but for now, I’ve been alternating between feeling like I finally know what’s going on and wanting to crawl into fetal position and listen to Taylor Swift on repeat. Dan Savage put it best: It gets better. Sure, I’m not LGBTQ, but it’s easier to identify with people who must feel so foreign in a straight white man’s world when you’re a gringa in a straight tan man’s world.

The thing most people seem to forget about trips like these is that the first week is never fun. Orientation, getting lost, culture shock, and trying to compose a sentence in Spanish while avoiding contact with the man making cat calls from across the way are not exactly my idea of “fun,” just to clarify we’re all on the same page here. That’s been my agenda for the week. We did go out once as a group, and I had two drinks. Count ’em: one. two. Very good. What can I say, I’m a little loca.

Buenos Aires is nothing like I expected it to be, but it is amazing nonetheless. Picture if NYC and Rome had a baby. (Only picture the baby, not the lovemaking, you sickos). That’s Buenos Aires. Big-city feel, tall buildings, lots of traffic and lights with oddly placed historic buildings with amazing architecture and incredible stories behind them. Rickety cobblestone streets, lots of kioscos selling candy, flowers, and magazines, and an incredible public transportation system. At any given time, you can see like five buses in a one-block radius. Pretty much the greatest thing ever.

The city is incredible, the coffee and empanadas are great, and my host mom is everything I could have wanted and more. Super sweet, funny, and hospitable. Yesterday we had housing orientation where we learned the customs of the houses and what is considered socially unacceptable, and many of the students were asking questions like “Why is there no hot water? Why did she leave me half a rotten banana for breakfast? What do I do with my hair in the morning? Do I carry my high school diploma around with me?” I can’t help but feel guilty while sitting in my hot bubble bath with wifi, empanadas, and perfect hair. (I haven’t yet gotten my diploma laminated, so that has to stay out for now). Seriously though, Cristina is great. She’s very patient with my mediocre Spanish and has helped me in so many ways. I still haven’t learned how to say “host mom” in Spanish, so I simply refer to her as my madre en Argentina, which tends to confuse many people whose parents apparently have enough money to fly to Argentina on a whim.

Only complaint I have is that there’s not a mirror in my room, so I have to use my laptop as a mirror. Basically, I look like I’m Skyping myself every time I do my makeup. “Hey Miranda, what’s up?” “Not much, just doing my makeup. What about you, Miranda?” Casual.

Anyway, enough about me.

Just kidding. More about me.

One thing that is kind of soul-crushing is the amount of skepticism I’ve been taught to have during my stay. About 75% of the orientation has been reserved to inform us of people here who want nothing more than to steal our innocence, our lives, and most importantly, our money. (What? We all have priorities in this world…) I haven’t yet witnessed the things they’re talking about; the people of Argentina seem perfectly decent to me. But the astonishing lack of eye contact is a little bothersome for someone who loves nothing more than to peer into the souls of those with whom I’m speaking. I’ll get over it, but expect lots of intense eye contact the second I’m back on (North) American soil.

So, friends. That concludes today’s public service announcement. I’ll try to post more regularly. Kidding, I totally won’t. I’m busy, dudes.

Que tengan un buen día.

P.S. I haven’t really taken a hot bubble bath, but I’m sure I could if I wanted to.

P.P.S. My obsession with John Mayer is only worsening with each passing day. Sorry, Taylor. Sorry, dignity.

The Final Countdown

Well, here we are. Or I suppose I should say here I am. Sitting in Denver International Airport, about to hop on a flight to Dallas and then to Buenos Aires. Until a couple minutes ago, I had been on the verge of tears for about 24 hours. My friend Ashley called me and I spoke to her mom who encouraged me and ensured that everything will be alright. During that phone call, I realized that I really have nothing to be worried about. Sure I’m going to a new country, but I have been preparing for this for months, even years! I have done everything in my power to ensure that I have a safe and well coordinated flight, arrival, and stay and this is the easy part. I wouldn’t be this anxious if I were only going to Dallas, why should I feel this way about Buenos Aires? I’ve done my research, I am smart and capable and can figure things out as I go. I know the language of the country and should have no problem getting around.

And if I do? That’s when the learning begins. That’s when the real experience of studying abroad will begin, allowing me to learn things I’ve never known, see things I’ve never seen, and feel things I’ve never felt. These reasons are the entire drivers of my desire to study abroad, so all I need to do is let go and embrace what is about to happen to me, because of me. If you would have told me three years ago that I would be on my way to Buenos Aires today, I would have told you to stop harassing me and let me live my life at UNLV in peace. I  am so thankful for all of the circumstances that have allowed me to go to DU and travel the world. I am also incredibly proud of myself for making this happen. Thank you to everyone who has helped me prepare for this trip; your guidance means more to me than you can know. I will update everyone as soon as I land!

Hasta luego.

Yes, I’m excited.

 

 

Buenos Aires green

Whenever I see people who know I’m going to Argentina, their first questions are usually some assortment of “Are you excited? Are you scared? Are you getting nervous?” To which I respond yes, yes, and yes. I don’t know how to feel. I’m just going through the daily motions until I make the biggest change of my life. That’s all I got. Don’t ask me what I’m doing tomorrow. This time is a blur until July 19 when I leave on a jet plane. Quit asking me about my plans down there. I’m staying with a host family and going to school, that’s all I got so far. I’ll fill in the blanks when I establish that I’m capable of having a conversation with a random stranger in Spanish.