Monday, December 20, 2010

Latin Time

So this blog is really really late and as much as latin time is a valid excuse here, it really can't justify nearly two months without an solid entry. Yes, my littlest laptop who could broke about a month and a half ago and is still out of action but my family has a computer that I've been using. Actually I have the worst luck with technology. On top of a broken computer my camera broke too. One hour before getting on the bus to go on the South trip there was an issue with the zoom and now it just doesn´t take pictures. Not fair, not fair at all because I didn't do a thing to my computer or camera. Did't drop them or go on freaky websites or anything. So I was more than really bummed when my camera broke just an hour before going to the most beautiful and scenic part of Argentina, but as the tears were welling up in my eyes over the stinging injustice of it I had to remind myself of the serenity prayer. To accept the things in life that I can't change and have the courage to change the things I could. So I put my camera and computer out of my mind the best I could and went to Patagonia hoping to develop my photographic memory.

I had the most amazing time of my life.

(This is everyone. 41 exchange students and 2 adults, I'm not sure if that would fly in the states but we didn't have any problems really. We are on a boat heading to the first european ranch that was built in Tierra del Fuego. We passed a penguin colony and saw some sealions too. We traveled though the Beagle canal, which runs between the limits of Chile and Argetnina. So I´ve seen Chile, been so close I could have swam to Chile if the water was warmer and I've even been in the air above Chile, but never actually set foot there.)

Okay so I have been really busy during the chunk of time I didn't write too, I went to Córdoba with the city band that I play in, my family took me to Sierra de La Ventana and the most amazing beach in Monte Hermoso and finally got a tour of the city (the cemetary is so strange to me here, nothing like the states at all. Picture graves as poor as a mound of dirt and a wooden cross to huge houses of marble for a whole family or what looks like a tombstone you could find in the US except that there's the whole family down there stacked on top of eachother or a wall that reminds me way too much of a post office on a much bigger scale and with out letters inside the little doors. And then there is a seperate place for all the Jews. Like i said it was a very differnt experience.) But this blog would be miles long if I went into that in detail so I will stick to what is most recent.

(Some Americans showing off Old Glory in front of the glacier Perito Moreno. Yes, all of that giant white mass is a glacier. It was breathtaking. Everything was post card perfect. There were actually like 12 Americans, all girls for some reason, but this is Katie from Cheyenne, WY (never thought I'd find another person from Wyoming in Argentina), then me with my eyes closed, Emily from Fort Collins, CO and Julia from Ojai, CA.)

So we did some amazing things in the south of Argentina, just amazing simply to BE in the south of Argentina because it is so beautiful. I'll try to sum the whole week up as best as I can. Started with a tour of La Boca, one of the most famous neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. And without a doubt one of the most colorful. We flew to El Calafate, a town in the way south of Argentina where the wind in the summer can blow up to 80 miles and hour and pretty much never stops. We went to the glacier national park and saw the Perito Moreno glacier (above) and also got to strap on some crampons and HIKE ON IT. In addition to drinking the glacier melt right off of the glacier, that was some really cold water, we also got to have whiskey with the glacier ice once we got to the top. No I'm not kidding. Rotary approved whiskey on top of a glacier with an alfajor on the side. Life does't really get any better or stranger than that. The whiskey was because of urban myth that if you drink it with ice from a glacier then you will return to Patagonia someday. Right.

(Cheers to Argentina!!! And so this is how I discovered that whiskey is nasty, no matter what kind of ice you put in it.)

The next day we traveled to El Chalten which is just increíble! Took some pictures and hiked around a bit. They put in a movie during the trip back about a rebellion that took place in Patagonia and I was following it pretty well and feeling pretty good about my spanish when I fell asleep. I woke up in the middle and everyone was shooting each other and nothing made sense anymore so i just went back to sleep. Something bad happened in Patagonia in 1921 but I'm not sure what or who won....

So the next day we went to Ushuia, which boasts of being the southern most city in the world. Which is hard to grasp when you are there that in reality you are as close to the pole as you are every going to get. To find Ushuia you turn a globe upside down, that's how far south we were. Crazy crazy, mind blowing crazy!!! But that was the most stunning town I've ever seen and when we landing in the plane, flying over the Beagle canal with the sunlight just barely coming through the clouds, wow. Just wow. I wish I could have captured it.

So in Ushuia I held the inner ear of a dolphin while standing in the largest whale bone museum in the world and understanding our guides explaination in spanish and that was, without a doubt, a moment to remember. We walked around in Tierra del Fuego national park, dressed up as prisioners from the old jail in Ushuia for a theater tour and got screamed at by the guards,learned some super interesting history, saw penguins, sealions, and Chile, I met a woman from dear Washington state (first one I've met here) who didn't know what to do with her life so she set out to learn spanish three years ago in Mexico, fell in love with an Argentine and now lives in Ushuia as a tour guide speaking flawless Argentine spanish (rock on!)and also held snow for what will be the only time this Christmas. I also made 40 new friends from all over the world. It was an amzing week to say the least. Oh. And I got pooped on by a falcon. In Tierra del Fuego. So it wasn't half bad.

(the american girls being American girls in El Chalten.)

So that was the south in a nutshell. I promise to be more frequent with my posts and will try to fill in the gaps I missed. I'll get one more in before Navidad but if I don't, Merry Christmas to all and enjoy the snow!!!!

Thank you so much to everyone who made this trip possible, my parents, my amazing Rotary club back home who I have learned to appreciate so much this year, my friends from here there and everywhere, Jorge Cantar and Chechu for taking on the task of controling 41 extranjeros, Robin and Richard DeRock, Micha for giving me a job to help pay for this amazing experience and to EVERYONE who helped me out financially to make this dream come true! Couldn't have done it without you!

Love from the girl who misses mountains,


Friday, November 5, 2010


Just a quick little post. Being immersed in a foreign language nearly all the time is a roller coaster, to say the least. There are days when I feel like Spanish just rolls of my tongue, and then there are days when I feel like banging my head against a language barrier the size of the Great Wall of China. One those rougher days I try to tell myself how much I really have improved but it's difficult when dinner conversation sounds like white noise. Good solid proof is really the best medicine.
For example this commercial from Argentina. I'm not sure how to ut it on here but I think this is the link below. I watched it on Youtube before I left and honestly I didn't understand a word. For you guys who know a bit of Spanish it will be obvious to you just how CRAZY the accent here is, and for those you you who don't, don't worry because the commercial is still funny. Enjoy.


And now I can understand it!! I was so excited to be able to see some progress that I had to share.

Here's to the small victories in life!!!! Like understanding a Doritos ad.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mud and Mayo

Well this blog is a little behind schedule partly because I didn’t realize that La Rural was two weekends ago, not one, and when I did sit down to write the blog, my family mysteriously didn’t have internet for five days. I guess it’s because of the construction on the house, doctors here (well at least the pediatricians) have house practices as well as some work in the hospital and now half of our house is a brightly colored waiting room filled with toys, tiny chairs and magazines. It’s a little bit strange to me. Like I walked downstairs this morning and the living room is filled with boxes and boxes of plastic gloves, various medicine, Band-Aids and Shrek stickers. I guess it means that my parents will be home more often.

Thank you so much Sunrise Rotary for all your letters!!! It feels good to have mail, it is a million times better than an email. I got a very brightly colored post card today, happy late birthday Kaitin! And thank you Alice for your advice on keeping a journal. I had been keeping notes on what I did from day to day but I stopped around day twenty two, once things got semi normal. But after reading your postcard I started up again, to capture the little moments that otherwise might be forgotten.

This past weekend there was the last hockey game of the season. I didn’t play and that was great for me because I still play with the thirteen year old girls and they crack up when I swing, miss and almost fall over. The girls won the match by a lot and celebrated afterwards by smearing mud on each other. At first I was really surprised, is this some strange Argentine celebration? Then I remembered the last lacrosse games of the season when we smeared cake and paint all over the seniors.Similar but not quite....

Las chicas!!!! Okay I don't know all the names but here we go, from left to right top row first: Clarita, forgot!, Augustina, Lujan, forgot and forgot, Sofi, Eugenia, Pilar, forgot, Camila, Miru and Luz. I'm so bad with names...

Miru and Egue after Egue got chased down and smeared with some fresh mud :)

Then came the condiments....

And now Augs looks like this...

And this...hahahaha so evil!

Katia went to Buenos Aires with her school and we were separated for the first time in almost two months. It was odd because I hadn’t realized just how much time we share just because we live together. We often find that things are more similar in America and Austria than they are in Argentina and I guess we will find out if the similarities really are true when we visit each other in the future. :) Yes, we dream big.

School has been going really well lately. I’m a nerd and took the math test last week. There were some word problems that went right over my head. The test got handed back today and I didn’t get a grade for it or anything but my classmates started clapping and it made me feel so good. I just get bored stiff in school sometimes, this makes any boredom in WHS seem like absolutely nothing. I would love nothing more to be able to do something because I hate feeling stupid and so I’m trying when I can.

But the best part of school is my classmates. They all just have so much personality and they make me so optimistic about having the rest of the year with them. And guess what? I’m off to another birthday party. Hahaha it’s pretty insane because I didn’t know a soul here two months ago.

It is when my friends talk that it is so clear that I am not in the states any more. I have never seen so much PASSION. They talk like the stereotypical Italian, I guess is the best comparison. I wish you all could see it. When the story they are telling gets too intense for sitting they stand up right there and continue with even larger gestures. They talk so loud and laugh so hard, it makes my American friends and I look like dead stumps. And this is all the time, not just when something super special happens, so much passion for everything! If they need a model and I’m sitting next to them then suddenly I’m a demonstration of how the drunken guy in the club was flirting with them. I crack up just watching them because they are just SO animated and it’s even funnier when I only catch handfuls of words.

So far my time here has been so amazing and I hope it stays like this. I don’t want to hit culture shock or get super homesick all of a sudden. I wouldn’t say that I’m madly in love with Argentina because there are for sure somethings that I prefer in the states but there are other things that I just love. And I love them even more because there is nothing like it back home.

Thank you all so much for giving me this chance!


Friday, October 15, 2010

I'm Sorry My Elbows Are Above My Ears, I've Never Eaten with My Left Hand Before

Ah. It’s been a month. Where did the time go? I feel like I’m just starting to get my footing here but it’s a long way from seeming like home. I know that I’m starting to adjust because I don’t fall asleep right after dinner every night anymore.

My list of words in the back of my notebook has grown to a good ten pages now and I’m reading some stories of Hans Christen Anderson in Spanish. I still think it’s weird that I can understand nearly everything in my Biology, math and Geography classes but sometimes not a word that my classmates say. I wish it was the opposite but my brain panics when they start talking two or three at once.

So this past weekend all of the exchange students went to Mar del Plata for a Rotary reunion. (The joys of twelve hours in a combi.) I keep wishing the reunions were longer so I could meet everyone but I’ll be spending plenty of time with the other exchange students on the trips! The first trip is in December and we will go to southern Argentina for a week. We’ll visit the southernmost city in the world, walk on some glaciers, see penguins and probably be really cold the whole time.
The next trip is in February and it is a three week long bus tour of the north of Argentina. Hopefully all forty of the exchange students are going because it sounds like it’s going to be crazy.

The day after we got hope from Mar del Plata I finally went out with my friends to Yamo. Yamo (shamo) is the most popular boliche (club) in Suarez and most of my classmates go out there every weekend. Of course we didn’t actually go to Yamo until four in the morning. “Why so late?” I asked. They laughed, “Because it’s completely empty if you go earlier.” Silly me. So we hung out until four and then went to Yamo and danced for two hours. I wasn’t tired at all so when we walked out of the club and it was light out, I couldn’t believe it. Then I slept till three in the afternoon.

This is me with a few of my friends at a birthday party. (Magi, the girl I'm sitting on I actually don't know, Eugenia, Luz and Camila)

That weekend I also went to two more birthday parties (will this ever stop?) and to a place called La Rural. To my American mind it was like the fair, minus the carnival part. There were a few horse races, tents full of venders, live music and lots of tractors. I was able to see some very Argentine things. Like this:

I made peanut butter cookies yesterday. Despite the fact that this butter does not taste anything like butter, the milk doesn’t taste like any milk I know and the only control on the oven is on and off, they turned out well! I made them for a girl in my class who had an operation on her spleen. (It took me two weeks to find out what organ they were talking about. The Spanish word for spleen is not in my dictionary, I guess they never thought it might be useful to know.) I have yet to give them to her but most people here aren’t the biggest fans of peanut butter. And my biology teacher asked me to make an apple pie next week…..a bit more complex. I kind of feel like their opinion of American food depends on my culinary skills. No pressure.

See you later alligator,

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Happy Birthday!!! x7

No, my birthday isn't until May. (And the picture doesn’t match the title at all. This is Katja and I during a dinner with all the exchange students in Suarez. We decided to get together, all eight of us. And I’ve been really bad about taking pictures so this is the best I have. Haha I’m such a bad tourist.)

But since I've been here, which is three weeks today, I've been to five birthday parties. I just got home from one and there's another tonight. So that's mostly what I've been up to. Besides starting field hockey, going to school, craving spicy foods and reading The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. (I keep dreaming in a jibberish that sounds like Spanish and it's driving me insane. The days when I read in English are the only days the dialogue in my dreams makes any sense. Thank you Howard Roark for keeping me sane.)

The birthday parties here are very different here. There are usually thirty or so kids (everyone from our class at school) and we sit in a circle and eat and talk (and they talk a lot here) for three or four hours. (Except for the fifteenth birthday parties, which are a huge deal and usually last until six or so in the morning.) Gifts are given sometimes and are usually very little things. But that's about it. They are very fun actually but it amazes me that they just talk for so long. Me, I sit and listen, follow the conversation and talk when I know what is going on. But they change topics so quickly, from blood types to cell phones and Michael Jackson, it's just hard for me to keep up.

They mostly just eat sweets at the parties. And you know you are in Argentina when everything you bite into has dulche de leche. Dulche de leche (literally sweet of milk) looks like caramel in color but is more liquid than solid. It is very very sweet andI like it, in modest amounts. But not in six layers or piled on every piece of cake. It is insane. Even the ice cream is dulche de leche flavored. ????
Last night was a really good night for me though. I went to my friend Eugenia's (I love that name) birthday party and talked for the whole time. It was incredible and for once I felt in on the conversation. It was once of my best moments here and I wish everyday could be as easy as that.

After the birthday party I went home and then took a taxi back to Eugenia's house around one a.m. (that's normal here) to go out with my classmates. I've become much more independent here. If need to get somewhere I walk, bike or call a taxi. If I need something I walk around until I find a store that sells it or ask someone on the street. It’s nice I guess but very different than what I did in America. It’s just that I can’t drive, most of the time there is no one to take me because my parents are at work and everything is so close that it isn’t really a hassle.
For a while I got sore throats and that gross sick feeling during the evenings and went to bed thinking I was going to be sick for a while. I woke up the next mornings feeling fantastic. The first time I thought it was really cool because I magically healed overnight. After feeling sick after six every night for five nights in a row I was just really peeved. Why couldn’t I stay sick long enough to miss a bit of school?

But now that has passed for the most part and compared to the other exchange students I’ve been in really good health. I am tired a lot and I try not to nod off in school, which is close to impossible when everything sounds like white noise. But I think I am finally getting used to the Argentine schedule and I’ve stopped feeling hungry during American meal times.

This coming weekend all the exchange students are headed to Mar del Plata and while I’m not looking forward to the drive I’m excited to meet everyone and hear about the trips we will be taking later this year! La la la yes, I’m playing hockey, I want to start dance classes and I think that’s about it!

Thanks to everyone for these weeks and thanks for checking up on me!


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Summarize the Most Intersting Week of Your Life

So the first day I got here I walked around Buenos Aires with Lucas, my host cousin, who spoke perfect English. I was feeling pretty good about my Spanish. I could actually speak better than I could understand, which is strange because it's usually the opposite. It's just that the Argentines have a CRAZY accent. Think of the difference between Scottish English and American English. It's been really hard to get used to, especially because I know I could understand better if I was in Mexico or Ecuador. But I did tell my host mom that my family used to have three cookies. I was trying to say chickens.

Then we drove home, to Coronel Suarez and I slept all the way there. I only met the other exchange student, Katia, from Austria, because my brother Carlitos was out with friends and my sister Delfina was in Rosario for the Field Hockey World Championship. Hockey’s a big deal here and hopefully I'm going to play.
Katia and I share a room so it is a little cramped sometimes but we get along very well and it is so nice to have someone who speaks English. We talk and talk and talk. She has been here for a month now so she knows where everything is and how to work the microwave and such important things. She’s been a huge help and I’m so glad we are sisters.

School: I started school on Tuesday but went with a Rotarian to get my classes figured out on Monday. I go to a private school and it is Catholic so there are pictures of the Pope everywhere. Schools here aren’t funded by the government and I was told that in most public schools there aren’t even desks. Not that my school is nice by American standards though either. We start at seven and go till noonish and then everyone goes home for lunch. Sometimes there will be classes in the afternoons.

I’m in a natural sciences class with about fifteen other students. The principal gave me a choice between natural sciences or some big word I didn’t know, so now I’m in the science class. It honestly doesn’t matter because no one pays attention here. Not even the American kind of not paying attention which is usually staring out the window. Nope. All the kids are in the back of the class room together, talking (and they talk so loud here, and all at once, with all these huge gesticulations) and playing games and circling all their desks. It’s chaos and I don’t understand how they learn anything but it’s nice for me because homework is nonexistent and I just get to be social.

I learned that there really are no rules in Argentina. Like for example, driving. They are maniacs. The streets are a food chain where you yield to the faster and larger object. My first day here I nearly met my end with a bus. But the upside is that very few streets are two way so most of the time you just have to look once to cross the street. And seatbelts are solely for decoration.

And lastly; certainty. I would love some of it. Between the language barrier and the Argentine sense of time, I never really know what is going on. For example the other day I slept in an hour past when school starts. I super flustered and so I got ready in a minute and walked to school. But when I got there my classroom was empty. A teacher told me that my classes didn’t start for another half an hour. Of course, and I thought I was late. Then I was told that there weren’t any more classes for the rest of the day (this happens all the time apparently, the teachers don’t show or the students all make a pact not to go). But when I went to a classmate’s birthday party that afternoon they asked me why I was at English or Gym? I’m just so confused.

I hope that wasn't too long but that's not even close to everything. Life here, in general, is good. I have up and downs but at the moment (thanks to my first run in nearly two weeks) I'm feeling really good about everything. I plan to just take everyday as it comes and do the best I can with it.

Thank you all! Un besito.

Oli (hahaha that's what they call me here).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My Head Just Won't Stop Spinning

Right. So I arrived in Buenos Aires last Saturday, making this day five. It's so hard to put everything that I've done and seen in order but I've been keeping a journal and that is a lifesaver. So here we go. Just with the beginning, because that's all I have time for.

My family said good bye to me at security in SeaTac and watched from afar as I went through security. I gave them a last thumbs up, turned the corner and bam, I'm alone and on my way. I made it to my first terminal no problem and then I had tons of time to kill. But I couldn't relax enough to even read in peace. The whole leaving bit was finally and truly hitting me.
So I sat there and looked around nervously for an hour and a half, with my legs threaded through the straps on my backpack, just like my mother told me (so it's harder to steal I guess), until a woman sat down across from me. She didn't recognize my Rotary jacket but was very friendly and found out I was an exchange student (she also thought I was 25. Win.). Turns out her name was Lyn and she was a big fan of AFS, another exchange program, and had hosted something like eight exchange students and sent all three of her daughters on exchanges. We talked and I calmed down, she helped me board and find the way to my next flight from Atlanta.
While boarding the next flight I ran into a group of Rotary students on there way to Argentina too! They were from Montana and Oregon. We played the ten finger game on the plane and later tried to figure out customs together.
But the man I was sitting next to was named Roy. He started the conversation like this, " you mind if I tell you something?" "Um no. Go ahead." "Well, I have a cat. Riiight under this seat. Oh! But don't worry, it's drugged really well." I didn't know if I've should believe him or not, can you bring cats on planes?! But after talking to him for a while it was clear that he was a little crazy. And he would NOT stop talking about that stupid cat. But he never let me see it so maybe it was all in his head.
ARRIVAL: Then I got off the plane, away from Roy, and went through customs. After customs there was a big gate and you could see tons of people standing behind a glass wall, waiting for everyone to come through. The other Rotary kids were standing there and trying to figure out the bus system to their next flights. So I told them good luck, took a deep breath and went through. I wasn't sure what to look for. I almost went back through the gate because there were just so many people. Then i saw a sign with my name on it and that was biggest relief of my life. My host parents, Carlos y Marta gave me the typical Argentine hug and kiss on the right cheek.
And I really have to go now. Sorry to leave you hanging like this but it's ten here and that's dinner time! I will fill in the other days soon enough and add pictures of course!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Chau and love you.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Start of Something

This is awesome. The VISA is in hand and the final packing has began (as you can see). I feels so good to know this departure is concrete and that the goodbyes are actually the real thing. I'm not sad in the least bit. Okay I did get tear prickles saying goodbye to all my friends, but so far my excitement is just overriding everything else. If I would have left earlier I bet I would have been more sad but now I'm just relieved to have a boarding pass. I guess there were some good things about having a late date.
So pretty much I found out Wednesday night that the VISA was on its way, and that if all went well we would be leaving Thursday night for Seattle to fly out from SeaTac on Friday morning. This hasn't given us much of a warning so today my mom and I around like crazy until everything was in order.
I didn't think that I would struggle with luggage, seeing how I barely scape by on clothes here, so when both of my suitcases were over 50 pounds it came as a bit of a shock. After removing the full sized shampoo, the second can of shave gel, the second bar of soap and second box of graham crackers (for smores of course) and my yearbook, it weighted out under 50.
Skype is ready to go on the new laptop that I bought. (It's the cutest little thing I've ever seen, a bit smaller than a piece of paper. And in honor of Wenatchee I christened it Skookum.)
Thanks to everyone, the DeRocks, Jim Adamson and the Sunrise Rotary Club, my family, alllll my friends and anyone else who has worked to make tomorrow possible. You are all fantastic.
I've been vaccinated for Yellow Fever and I'm armed with my trusty Spanish-English dictionary.
WOOHOO! I'm ready.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Home Sweet Home!

Things are finally starting to come into focus now as I get more details. So this picture here is of my host town, Coronel Suárez. It is about the same size as Wenatchee, 40,000 people, so I wont have to adjust to big city life. They are famous for their polo team apparently. I have never seen a polo game in my life and don't even know the rules, something like golf on horseback right? Hopefully I'll be able to watch a couple games. It's mostly an agricultural town but it isn't very far from the coast (ahhh beaches) and Buenos Aires.

I also got news from my first host family!!! My host mom's name is Marta and my dad's name is Carlos Pellegrini. They both work as doctors, pediatricians I think it was. And they have four kids(four siblings for me!!!). There's Paula who is 21 and lives and studies in Buenos Aires, Florencia who is 18 and living in Austria on her exchange now, Carlos, 16, and he leaves on his exchange in January and lastly, Delfina who is 12. I am so excited to meet them all! We have already started talking on Facebook in spanglish.

My departure date is still up in the air but my friend Chelan leaves for Peru in ten days! Ten days! I'm hoping for an August date but we'll see. I'm going to try and keep up this blog the best I can so I'll write when something interesting happens! And I'll try to post pictures of my family!

Hasta luego!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Playing the Waiting Game

It's now June and I still don't know anything about next year. I guess the details will come soon and I should just be patient. Other than the generous donations that I'm recieving for my year abroad (thanks again!), there's nothing really interesting to note, seeing this whole thing doesn't really begin untill some undetermined date in "late july or early august". School's almost over and I have to somehow keep up with my Spanish over the summer. I guess that means more spanish Disney movies and cheesey latin love songs.

Hasta luego,