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, "Hey....do 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.